Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Guidelines for Physical Activity. Are you active enough?

Many of us have the wrong idea when it comes to physical activity. We usually quote the experts when they say that 30 minutes a day of physical activity will bring health benefits into our lives. That is true. Any physical activity will improve our health to a certain extent. However, to improve our health markers and obtain visual results from our workouts, we need to put more effort than experts originally thought. Here's what the US Department of Health and Human Services has to say about physical activity for adults (http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/Chapter4.aspx):
  • All adults should avoid inactivity. Some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits.
  • For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week.
  • For additional and more extensive health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond this amount.
  • Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate or high intensity and involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.
Health benefits do not necessarily mean results that you can see. You should feel the benefits like added stamina and endurance, but you might not see a substantial amount of weight loss. These are some of the benefits that aerobic activity will bring into your life.
  • Reduction of blood pressure
  • Increased HDL cholesterol
  • Decreased total cholesterol
  • Decreased body fat stores
  • Increased aerobic work capacity
  • Decreased clinical symptoms of anxiety, tension and depression
  • Reduction in glucose-stimulated insulin secretion
  • Increased heart function
  • Redution in mortality in post-myocardial infarcton patients
  • Prevention of type 2 diabetes
Defining moderate and vigorous intensity

Moderate Intensity: Walking briskly (3 miles per hour or faster, but not race-walking), Water aerobics, Bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour, Tennis (doubles), Ballroom dancing, General gardening. To be at the minimum threshold, you would have to do these activities for 30 mins five times a week or 50 minutes 3 times a week.

Vigorous Intensity: Racewalking, jogging, or running, Swimming laps, Tennis (singles), Aerobic dancing, Bicycling 10 miles per hour or faster, Jumping rope, Heavy gardening (continuous digging or hoeing, with heart rate increases), Hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack. You can do these for 25 minutes, 3 times a week.

For additional benefits and most likely visible benefits you can add resistance training and the additional aerobic activity sessions explained above.

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