It’s very easy to overlook daily habits while searching for a magical pill that can drastically improve health. Interestingly, the secret’s been out for a long time regarding this wonder drug. It’s called exercise!
Exercise, which is a subcategory of physical activity, is backed by an overwhelming body of evidence showing it’s improvement in nearly every health parameter. The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Committee Scientific Report explains that physical activity helps adults manage body weight, prevent obesity, reduce the risk of dementia, reduce the risk of clinical depression, reduce symptoms of anxiety, improve quality of sleep, and improves physical function. For older adults, physical activity provides important additional benefits such as reducing the risk of falls and fall related injuries.
Recent statistics show only 20% of adolescents and adults achieve the current physical activity guidelines. This means 80% are unfortunately increasing their risk for preventable chronic diseases such as heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers simply due to lack of physical activity.
The new 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines state that adults need at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) to 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity per week. Moderate intensity can be defined as 50–70% of an individual’s maximum heart rate. To estimate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. Buying a simple heart rate monitoring device can help you gauge your workout’s intensity. Alternatively, you can determine if you’re working at moderate intensity by using a simple test. If you can talk, but not sing during physical activity, you’re likely working at moderate intensity. Moderate intensity activities include brisk walking, bicycling slower than 10 mph, general yard work, and ballroom or line dancing.
Muscle strengthening activities should also be including at least 2 days per week according to the 2018 guidelines. This is critical for maintaining and improving muscular strength, increasing bone density, improving body composition, and reducing the risk of injury. Examples include weight lifting, resistance band workouts, carrying heavy loads, and body weight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups.
The benefits of physical activity are immediate. Research shows that one bout of physical activity reduces blood pressure, anxiety and improves quality of sleep. Being more active and establishing an exercise routine does not have to be complicated. Brisk walking is generally safe for most people, but check with your physician if you plan on starting a new exercise program.
References: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. (2018). Retrieved from https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/