Get Off the Couch and Get Moving

Once a physically active nation, our auto dependent infrastructure actually discourages physical activity. Walking and bicycling by children has dropped by 50% since 1977. Children spend less time outside playing because of two working parent families and fewer safe places to play. TV, computers and video games condition young people to be less active. Schools have stripped recess and physical education from the curriculum. Many communities have failed to invest in recreational facilities, such as parks and recreation centers.

Exercise has become a “dirty word” wrapped with negative connotations and a chore to be avoided at all costs.

The good news is that small amounts of physical activity each day, even in very small increments, add up. Research shows that 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (or an equivalent combination of the two) each week reduces the risk of many chronic diseases. However, some health benefits begin with as little as 60 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week.

Physical activity should not be viewed as an all-or-nothing venture; this attitude creates barriers and, ultimately, inactivity. So, start slowly. Over time, you want to gradually incorporate greater amounts of physical activity into your routine. That way the physical activity becomes a habit.

Be sure to choose several different activities that you truly enjoy e.g., dancing, martial arts, gardening, bowling, swimming, lifting weights or walking. Variety keeps things interesting and lets you fit activity into your lifestyle; whether it’s in 10-minute intervals throughout the day or one-hour blocks scattered throughout the week.

If you have a chronic health condition such as diabetes: Check with your doctor to find out if your physical condition limits, in any way, your ability to be active. Then, work with your doctor to come up with a physical activity plan that matches your abilities and interests. If your condition stops you from meeting the minimum Guidelines, try to do as much as you can. What’s important is that you avoid being inactive. The bottom line is that the health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks of getting hurt.

Benefits of Physical Activity

Lowers Blood Glucose Levels: Daniel Umpierre, M.Sc., of the Hospital de Clinicas de Porto Alegre, Brazil, and colleagues carried out a review of studies and their findings show: structured aerobics, resistance training, and combined training are each linked to similar reductions in HbA1c in patients with Type 2 diabetes. More than 150 minutes a week of such exercise is linked to greater reductions.

Reduce Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the United States. Getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity can put you at a lower risk for these diseases. Regular physical activity can also lower your blood pressure and improve your cholesterol levels.

Control or Maintain Your Weight: Physical activity plays a critical role in controlling your weight. You gain weight when the calories you burn are less than the calories you eat or drink. When it comes to weight management, people vary greatly in how much physical activity they need. You may need to be more active than others to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

Strengthen Your Bones and Muscles: As you age, it’s important to protect your bones, joints and muscles. Keeping bones, joints and muscles healthy can help ensure that you’re able to continue your daily activities. Research shows that doing aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening physical activity of at least a moderately-intense level can slow the loss of bone density that comes with age.

Improve your mental health and mood: Regular physical activity can help keep thinking, learning and judgment skills sharp as you age. It can also reduce your risk of depression and may help you sleep better.

Strengthens your immune system: Vigorous physical activity stimulates corticosteroid and white blood cell production. A strong immune system makes you more resistant to colds and flu.

 Increase Your Chances of Living Longer: Studies show physical activity can reduce your risk of dying early from the leading causes of death. This is significant because:

Only a few lifestyle choices have as large an impact on your health as physical activity. People who are physically active for about 7 hours a week have a 40 percent lower risk of dying early than those who are active for less than 30 minutes a week.

You don’t have to do high amounts of activity or vigorous-intensity activity to reduce your risk of premature death. You can put yourself at lower risk of dying early by doing at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.

Everyone can gain the health benefits of physical activity: Age, ethnicity, shape or size does not matter.

Choose an activity and Get Moving!

Sources

CDC

Health and Human Services