Continuing with the lifestyle posts over the past 3 weeks, excluding the Hurricane Harvey intermission post, this week we will discuss exercise and physical fitness! Along with diet, physical exercise is one of the largest components of health. There is often information about exercise on television, social media, and even in the news, because, like dieting, fitness is not immune to fads or phases. Information about leg day in the weight room, yoga on the beach, or even about whether to exercise in the morning or night is available everywhere. Rather than tell you what the latest fads are in fitness today, I am going to outline the basics that you can use to direct your workout decisions. It is impossible to build a great routine if you don’t have a sturdy foundation.
The American Heart Association defines physical activity as “anything that makes you move your body and burn calories.” This includes walking, daily activities, and deliberate exercise such as scheduled trips to the gym, work out classes, or team sports. The rule of thumb is to achieve at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. Often times, the advice to have 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week is used, because it is easier to remember. Specific details of the types and combinations of exercise that are recommended for adults can be viewed on the CDC’s website, including examples of types of work outs appropriate for your age group.
The NFL Play 60 campaign pushes this goal even farther and encourages youth to have 60 minutes of physical activity to combat the obesity epidemic. In fact, while adults are encouraged to obtain at least 30 minutes a day, the US Department of Health and Human Services actually recommends 60 minutes of moderate to vigorously intense exercise every day.
So, what are the types of exercise that we can become involved in? Well, I am glad you asked! The NIH has a great outline of four major exercise categories with detailed descriptions on each. I will go over each one here.
Aerobic activity- This first category of exercise is what most children and many adults associate with exercise. Aerobic activity uses large muscle groups and is implicated in endurance training. This type of activity increases your heart rate, causes you to breath harder and faster, and helps build strong hearts and lungs. This is often referred to as “cardio” work outs. It includes walking, running, biking, swimming, many team sports such as basketball, tennis, and soccer. It can also include mowing the lawn, or vacuuming the floor if you work hard enough to elevate your heart rate.
Anaerobic activity- The other 3 categories of exercise are all encompassed under this umbrella. Anaerobic activity is anything that does not depend heavily on oxygen supplies, and often does not elevate heart rate or respiratory rate. Instead, the benefits of these movements are accumulated through repetitive actions. The first of this sub-group is muscle strengthening activities. These actions increase the strength, power, and endurance of your muscles. This includes things like lifting weights, push ups, sit ups, and using resistance bands. Around the house, gardening, moving heavy furniture, or climbing stairs can contribute to this. Bone strengthening exercises are the second sub-group. In this category, activities strengthen the integrity of your bones to prevent breakage or damage. The exercises that improve bone strength are encompassed in other activities, such as running, walking, and lifting weights. The last category is flexibility and includes stretching and balance. This type of exercise works on your body’s joints and can improve your muscles by reducing risk for injury. Warm up stretches such as touching your toes or the “sit and reach” exercise increase flexibility. Yoga and Pilates also have a large flexibility component to their routines.
What are the benefits of physical activity? Well, the CDC lists many positive benefits of becoming active and fit on it’s website.In addition to strengthening bones and muscles as we described above, there are many other health benefits of physical activity, including improved mental health, reduced stress, higher sleep quality, and a better overall mood. Many adults are motivated to exercise as a form of weight management, because regular exercise, when paired with a healthy lifestyle, can help prevent obesity or be a contributing factor to weight loss. Exercise can also reduce your risk for disease development, including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and even some forms of cancer!
These guidelines are not solely specific to America. In fact, the World Health Organization also promotes physical activity. In fact, the WHO specifically denotes on their website that exercise recommendations ” are applicable for all adults irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity or income level. They also apply to individuals in this age range with chronic noncommunicable conditions not related to mobility.” The WHO has established a “Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity, and Health” because it understands that by improving diet and exercise, they can significantly reduce deaths and the burden of disease.