Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How Much Exercise Should I Do?

Often when people do decide to exercise, the very next question is 
how much?  Let me start off by saying that any physical activity is good, so no matter how few moments you can dedicate to it will make a difference.  You may believe “no pain, no gain” from messages of a time gone by that have convinced you that unless you are involved in intense sweaty workouts there is no benefit.  Not true.  Any physical activity is good--any time, any amount.  The goal is to incorporate physical activity as part of your lifestyle—that means ongoing and consistent.  If the only way to consistently add exercise to your life is to start small, then start small--very small if need be.  Just get moving!  As you realize how achievable small steps are (no pun intended), and you quickly begin to feel the benefits, it will become a self-motivating endeavor.  So just start where you are at.  It may take a few weeks (or even months) to budge the schedule enough to incorporate consistent physical activity into your lifestyle, so don’t be discouraged if your reality (and schedule) is a little slower to change than you would hope.  Just keep looking for opportunities in the schedule and determine to become more physically active, remember that any activity matters, and just get moving.

The very good, somewhat surprising news from accumulating research:

·      Studies have shown that disease and death rates go down as the total daily amount of exercise goes up.  Furthermore clinical trials have shown that several 10-minute bursts of exercise yield essentially the same benefits in blood pressure, weight, body fat, cholesterol levels, and cardiovascular fitness as the same total amount of exercise done in a single session.  Therefore, exercise done “piecemeal” throughout the day seems as beneficial as the same total amount of exercise done in a single session. . .

·    Most studies agree that you do not have to knock yourself out to reap substantial benefits from exercise, including protection against a wide range of diseases.  Moderate-intensity exercise (walking, strength training) seems to provide maximum benefits in the areas of blood pressure, stress, HDL, and depression.  Certain health benefits, such as increased HDL’s and reduced blood pressure, seem directly proportional to the total amount of time spent exercising.

·      Some evidence suggests that vigorous exercise better prevents blood clots and yields steadily increasing gains in overall aerobic fitness.  Moving from moderate to heavy exercise usually does yield additional benefits, though they may not be as great as when you first move from minimal to moderate exercise.  In the most important areas (deaths from coronary disease and from all causes) you can expect the greatest gains when you move from minimally to moderately active, and lesser but still substantial further gains when you exercise harder, longer, or more often.  Let that be encouraging to you--the most gain is realized when you just get moving.

Now, about that question—how much exercise should you do?  I hesitate to even answer this common question because of the type of “all or nothing” thinking many people take on when they think about this subject.  Remember, any physical activity is good, just get moving. . . 

·     The Office of the U.S. Surgeon General recommends that “Every U.S. adult should accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week.”

·     The Institute of Medicine (IOM) increased exercise recommendations in 2002 to an hour of moderate-paced activities every day The IOM recommendations are for weight-loss--to combat obesity in the U.S.  The recommendation for these workouts are longer and more frequent than the minimum needed for disease-preventing benefits.

·       The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans  recommendation (which refer to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans): “To achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, adults should do the equivalent of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week If necessary, adults should increase their weekly minutes of aerobic physical activity gradually over time and decrease calorie intake to a point where they can achieve calorie balance and a healthy weight.  Some adults will need a higher level of physical activity than others to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.  Some may need more than the equivalent of 300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity.

·     The American Heart Association recommends:  At least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity).  

        Overall, the agreement is 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.


Note:  If you have two or more risk factors, or a strong family history of premature coronary heart disease, or are over the age of 40 and plan to begin a vigorous exercise program, the American Heart Association and N.E.W. LIFE recommend that you get a stress test from your physician before you begin.  Heart disease is an insidious killer--you never know you have a problem until it’s too late.  Jim Fix was a well-known marathon runner who died at age 52 in the middle of a run of a heart attack, arteries clogged full of cholesterol.  He looked good on the outside and was a trained athlete!  The first sign of heart disease is sometimes sudden death.  Furthermore, it is important to see your physician for a physical if you have health concerns which exercise could potentially aggravate.  Of course, walking is always encouraged, and this can be a perfect way to begin adding more physical activity to the lifestyle. 


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1 comment:

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