There is no magical cure in medicine. But if there were one, it would be physical activity. Because, it provides us many health benefits! Physical activity is an important step you can take to improve your health and also quality of life. Regular physical activity may help prevent or delay many health problems. Being active may help you stay healthy and also feel better. It can have immediate and long-term health benefits.
Regular physical activity or exercise can help lower your risk for many diseases such as heart disease and stroke. Exercise can also help relieve symptoms of some conditions, such as depression, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. For most people, participating in physical activity is safe. However, some people should check with their health care provider or a qualified exercise professional before they start becoming more physically active.
How can physical activity help my health?
Getting regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your health. Regular physical activity can help:
- Lower your risk of dying early
- Improve depression
- Reduce your risk of a heart attack.
- Manage your weight better
- Have a lower blood cholesterol level
- Lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and some cancers
- Have lower blood pressure
- Have stronger bones, muscles and joints and lower risk of developing osteoporosis
- Lower your risk of home accidents such as falls
- Feel better – with more energy, a better mood, feel more relaxed and sleep better.
How much physical activity should I do?
Researchers know that the more physical activity you do, the more your health benefits. The more time you spend being active each week, the lower your risk is for dying early.
The Physical Activity Guidelines suggest that each week, get at least:
- 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity. You know you are doing a moderate-intensity activity when your heart is beating faster but you can still carry on a conversation. Try a brisk, 30-minute walk five times a week.
- 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. You know you are doing a vigorous-intensity physical activity when you are breathing hard and it is difficult to have a conversation. This could be a 40-minute jog or step class twice a week.
- Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days
You should aim for these amounts, but any physical activity is better than no physical activity. Try to spread your activity out over the week so that you are active on at least three days. You need to be active for at least 10 minutes at a time to get health benefits.
Physical activity should be in addition to the normal activities of daily living, such as cleaning, walking.
Can you exercise if you’re underweight, overweight, or obese?
Maybe. People who are underweight due to an eating disorder should not exercise unless their doctor tells them to. Your doctor or nurse can help you develop an exercise plan that is healthy and safe for a person of your current weight.
People who are overweight or obese should talk to their doctor or nurse about any concerns they have about beginning an exercise program. For most people, any amount or type of physical activity will help your overall health.
How much physical activity do I need to lose weight?
Everyone is different. How quickly you burn calories when you are physically active can be very different from other people. This is based on your specific genes, biology, and past.
What types of physical activity should I do to be healthy or lose weight?
You should do two types of physical activities on a regular basis: aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
Aerobic activities (also called “cardio”) make you breathe harder and your heart beat faster. During aerobic activities, such as running or dancing, you move your whole body, or a combination of arms and legs, over and over again.
Muscle-strengthening activities such as working out with weight machines, free weights, or exercise bands. You also can do exercises that use your own body weight to create resistance, such as yoga, sit-ups, or push-ups. The muscle you build helps you have the strength to do daily activities, such as climbing stairs or carrying groceries.
During strength training, you should do different exercises to work all the major muscle groups of your body. (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms). You should try to do muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days each week. But allow one day in between sessions to avoid too much stress on your muscles and joints.
Watch these videos from the CDC to learn more about muscle-strengthening activities you can do at home or at the gym.
How can I start to be active?
Pick an activity you enjoy.
Create a list of the activities you would like to do, such as walking, aerobics, tennis, wheelchair basketball. To increase your activity level, add an activity that sounds fun and try it out. You are more likely to stay active if you choose activities you enjoy.
Start slowly and add a little at a time.
The idea of being active 30 to 60 minutes each day may seem like too much at first. Start by moving for 10 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Every few weeks, add 5 to 10 minutes until you are active at least 30 minutes most days.
Set a goal, add it to your calendar, and do it.
Setting goals and having a plan to realize them may help you stick with a physical activity routine.
- Set specific short-term goals that you can track. For example, instead of saying “I’m going to be more active this week,” set a goal of walking 30 minutes a day on 3 days this week.
- Think of the days and times you could do the activity, such as first thing in the morning, during lunch breaks, after dinner, or on Saturday afternoon. Look at your calendar, phone, or computer to determine the days and times that work best and commit to those plans in writing. Also, set your phone to send reminders to help you stay on track.
Be sure to play it safe, regardless of which activities you choose. An injury could cause a setback, keep you from meeting your physical activity goals, and affect how active you are in the future.
- Start slowly. If you are starting a new physical activity program, go slowly at first. Even if you are doing an activity that you once did well, begin little by little to lower your chance of injury or burnout.
- Stay hydrated. Remember to drink liquids. Water is an option. Sports beverages have a lot of sugar, will add extra calories, and aren’t necessary for most moderate activity.
- Listen to your body. Take it easy at first and see how you feel before trying more challenging workouts. Stop if you feel out of breath, dizzy, faint, or nauseated. Also stop if you have chest pain or any other type of pain.
- Address existing health issues. If you have an injury or health problem such as diabetes or heart disease, talk with your health care professional about how to add physical activity to your life safely.
- Think ahead and plan for setbacks. Have options ready in advance in case of bad weather, injury, or other unusual events. If you do get off track, don’t give up. Regroup and focus on meeting your goal again as soon as you can.
What other “prescription” costs so little, yet has the potential to help you become more confident, well-rested, independent, mentally stable, happier, leaner, healthier, and fit? Start now every second counts! Also, don’t forget to take your family along.