“I ran three miles, staggered into the lobby, and took the elevator back to my apartment. No point to overdoing this exercise junk.” - Stephanie Plum” - Janet Evanovich, Two for the Dough
Exercise is not necessarily synonymous with latex, toned bodies and gilded gym cards.
It is, in simple terms, just moving your body up a notch from its normal activity level. If your life up to now has been quite sedentary, a walk around the block or raking the leaves in your backyard is exercise. If you are a trained athlete, a 10-mile run might be exercise.
Why do it at all?
According to the United Kingdom’s new evidence-based physical activity guidelines, there are five key benefits to engaging in exercise daily.
It reduces the risk of many deadly diseases including coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes, helps you maintain a healthy weight, helps you go about your daily tasks with ease, hikes your self-esteem and reduces instances of depression and anxiety.
Add to that, exercise increases your “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) and decreases triglycerides which detract from your health.
It also increases your energy and heightens your muscle strength and overall endurance. It helps you sleep, and, when centered on activities you love, can greatly enhance your quality of life.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)2 and Prevention claims that people who get sufficient exercise have lower annual medical costs than those who are sedentary.
A recent study in Australia found that people who spend many hours sitting each day, either watching television or driving in cars, die earlier than their active counterparts.
Another research project suggested people who sit for hours on end may actually change their metabolism for the worse, making them more liable to succumb to heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions.
Once you make the decision to introduce more activity into your life, think about what you enjoy doing, your current level of fitness, and devise your own personal plan to move a little more each day.
You might start going for walks around your neighborhood, or tackling your backyard garden. If you are already active and want to increase your level of fitness, consider jogging, swimming or dancing.
Take up a new sport like tennis or squash. Join a neighborhood gym or fitness center and try some resistance training or aerobics. If you are also trying to work on decreasing your stress, consider yoga or tai chi.
The UK Guidelines define moderate exercise as those which make you breathe harder and your heart beat faster, but allow you to still carry on a conversation. Examples are brisk walking and cycling.
Vigorous exercise, on the other hand, means you are moving too much to talk easily. Examples are running, swimming or playing football.
Examples of resistance exercise to strengthen your muscles include exercising with weights and carrying or moving heavy objects.
How much exercise do you need?
In the United Kingdom, health authorities suggest adults should be active daily, adding up to at least 150 minutes or two and a half hours of moderate intensity activity per week. Bouts of exercise should be done in 10 minutes or more.
They recommend one way to accomplish this is to do 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week.
If you exercise vigorously, you should feel the benefits by committing at least 75 minutes a week to your activity.
You should also do some muscle strength-building exercises at least twice a week and try to reduce the amount of time you sit for an extended period.
1. Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults (19-64 years). https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/213740/dh_128145.pdf
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
3. Dunstan DW, Barr El, Healy GN, et al. Television viewing time and mortality: the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study (AusDiab). Circulation.2010; 121:384-91
4. Warren TY, Barry V, Hooker SP, Sui X, Church TS, Blair SN. Sedentary behaviours increase risk of cardiovascular disease mortality in men. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010; 42: 897-85
For more straightforward and useful evidence-based health and nutrition advice, visit: www.theultimatebodymanual.com