Add a Few Steps for Health
Did you know that as many as 250 000 deaths per year in the United States can be attributed to a lack of regular physical activity?
Unfortunately, the vast majority of adults in the United States are sedentary; with less than one-third of Americans meeting the minimal recommendations for activity as outlined by expert panels.
But here’s the good news: even midlife increases in physical activity can significantly decrease the risk of dying prematurely.
What Are the Benefits of Exercise?
Exercise promotes weight reduction and can help reduce blood pressure, LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels. It is also a main intervention to help raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Above and beyond reducing risk for heart disease, people who exercise regularly report improved sleep, lower stress, sharper memory, higher self-confidence and even better sexual function. There are simply no downsides to moving your body every day.
How Much Exercise Is Enough?
Every American adult should participate in 30 minutes or more of moderate intensity activity every day of the week. Moderate activities are those that make you mildly to moderately breathless. This would be comparable to walking briskly at about 3 to 4 miles per hour or engaging in activities such as yard work, heavier household tasks, etc. If you are opting for walking as your main form of exercise, aim to cover 2 miles in 30 minutes, and ideally 4 miles in 1 hour.
Thirty to 60 minutes of moderate activity daily equates to approximately 100 – 200 calories of energy expended per day. Maintained over a year this equates to a loss of 10 to 20 lbs.
Physical Fitness and Longevity
Turns out you do not be a marathon runner or an elite athlete to derive significant benefits from exercise. Although the most sedentary adults have a risk of dying that is 4.5 times that of those who are most fit, the greatest reduction in risk happens when you go from doing NOTHING to doing SOMETHING.
How Should You Begin if You Want to Become More Physically Active?
The goal is integrating at least a half hour of moderate activity into your day. If simply cannot set aside a half hour of activity on a given day, see if you can get there by adding movement to the course of your day. Take the stairs rather than the elevator, park in the farthest spot from the door, or try walking rather than driving to the store. The most important thing is to get started.
Exercise is considered extremely safe, especially if moderate in intensity. However, if you already have heart disease, or are unsure of your personal risk of heart disease, you should consult your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Pate RR, Pratt MP, Blair SN, et al. Physical activity and public health: a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine. JAMA,. 1995; 273: 402–407.
US Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General. Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; 1996.
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