Perfect health requires perfect blood circulation and perfect circulation requires activity. All of the muscles in our body need some sort of exercise. Not exercising our body reduces our strength and our sense of well being, reduces our circulation and causes us to feel low sometimes. We need to have our bodies in the best possible shape so that we can enjoy life.
Understanding Physical Activity and Exercise
The terms ‘exercise’ and ‘physical activity’ are often used interchangeably, but technically, they are not. Physical activity as the term implies is anything that requires the utilization of energy through muscular movement. Therefore, physical activity could mean walking up the stairs; it could be doing your laundry, shopping for groceries, caring for your children, playing Frisbee, gardening or any activity that is not done at a certain time or with intensity. Physical activity burns calories and that type of lifestyle approach is very beneficial to your overall health. One way or the other you just need to keep moving from time-to-time. You do not necessarily need to join a gym or put on your sneakers to stay physically active. It is just trying to move as much as you can in the course of your day.
On the other hand, exercise is a subcomponent of physical activity that is structured, planned and repetitive. Exercise is a plan where you have a goal in mind and work under a regime to perform physical activity at certain intensity. For example, you may want to lose weight and work towards that target by performing a set of workout routines at regular intervals to form a part of an exercise program. It is a little different from physical activity as you could just go out gardening and burn calories as opposed to this regimented exercise sort of mentality. However, exercise has many added benefits.
There are psychological benefits of exercising, as you really feel good after you have overcome the initial struggle of exercise because of the release of endorphins ‘the feel good’ chemicals in your brain. When you are gardening, you are working at a low intensity compared to exercising which is usually performed at a higher intensity. Now there is no doubt that higher the intensity, the better the outcomes you could potentially have. Again, it comes back to psychology because the exercise part becomes like a pressurized response, which could sway people away from participating in the program itself. You should try to increase the activity as best you can by balancing both exercise and physical activity to target burning around 1500 calories per week. Studies show that this will help reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc by 25 to 30 percent. Both exercise and physical activity will provide you with health benefits that can help you feel better and enjoy life more as you age.
Importance of Staying Active
With all the modern conveniences that we enjoy today, getting things done has become easier. These conveniences allow us to get work done with minimal physical effort. That coupled with the invention of television means that we sit idle, more today than any time in history. The impact of these luxuries is taking a heavy toll. Physical inactivity contributes to many lifestyle related diseases and a poor quality of life. The risk of having heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and some cancers is associated with the lack of activity. Therefore, it makes more sense that the more active we are, the less lifestyle related chronic diseases we have.
Being inactive and ‘taking it easy’ can be risky. Sometimes people, especially some younger people might say “Well I want to take it easy…I worked all day. I want to come home and just relax.” That relaxing may be causing you long-term consequences as you get older you will not have the strength and mobility you might have had if you remain active throughout your life. Aging alone cannot be blamed for decrease in physical functioning. It’s usually inactive lifestyle that contributes to how well we age and how physically functional we are in older age.
Inactivity leads to overweight which leads to diabetes and heart disease. This may lead to more doctor visits, more hospitalizations and more use of medicines for a variety of illnesses. Staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay many diseases and disabilities. Exercise helps people with high blood pressure, balance problems or difficulty walking, and may prevent problems associated with older age and help combat those problems, if we remain active. Physical activity also helps us to manage stress and mood. In fact, it is nature’s anti depressant. You do not need medicines, just move and get outdoors. Regular exercise can help reduce feelings of depression. It also helps improve and maintain some aspects of cognitive functioning such as your ability to shift quickly between tasks and ignore irrelevant information.
Whether you are in your 20’s, 40’s or 60’s, it is time to take care of your cardiovascular health. It is essential for mental clarity, protecting you against stress and for overall vitality. There are several things that you can and should incorporate in your life to maintain a healthy lifestyle. For example, brisk walks, sit-ups, lightweight training, swimming and biking are all efficient low impact exercises for any fitness level. Nevertheless, whether you exercise or not, the important thing is to do something every day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk or bike to nearby destinations instead of driving or take your dog for a long walk. Even taking a few moments to stretch legs each day can make a difference.
Physical Activity – Overcoming Obstacles
Let us look at some of the common excuses for not being active. The number one reason is that there is not enough time. However, it is interesting to note that an average American spends four and a half hours each day watching TV. The next most common reason is being too tired. If you consider that exercise gives you more energy when you least feel like doing it, is probably when you need it the most. Next excuse is that exercise is boring. If you do not enjoy the exercise that you have tried, the most practical thing to do is to find something that you enjoy doing. Instead of walking on a treadmill, consider dancing or taking up a new sport.
There are many ways you can incorporate more activity into your everyday life. When you are out, where do you park when you go to a store or mall? Instead of driving around for five minutes watching for someone else to leave, park further out purposely to get more activity. Walk around the mall or store before you start shopping. Inside the buildings, take the stairs instead of escalator or elevator. At the office, walk during coffee or lunch break. Standup while talking on the phone; walk across to a co-worker’s desk instead of sending an email. Take the longest route to the restroom or take the restroom, which is further away. At home after reading, a few pages get up and walk around. When watching TV, walk around during commercials. Walk your pet daily, walk when you are talking on the phone. Make time to play with your kids daily.
Tips for staying active
- Determine your motivation – Do you need to be more active to improve your risk factor or health condition or do you want to be active to have more energy to enjoy life more. Make a list of these motivators and why they are important to you. This will help you to be clear about how your life will be better.
- Getting support – Invite your family, friends or co-workers to engage in being active with you or supporting you in staying active.
- Plan your goals – Write down your goals and what you wish to accomplish. Be specific about the number of days, the amount of time in the type of activity you will be doing.
- Get specific – The more detail you include in your plan the better. If you decide simply to exercise, you might not have success you had hoped because you did not have a specific plan. Set aside 25 minutes each morning at a specific time to stretch, walk, jog or whatever you have planned.
- Make it routine – Making new behavior part of your daily schedule is an effective way to introduce it in your lifestyle. For example, if you resolve to lose weight, replace lunch every day with a healthy protein shake.
- Keep an activity log – Track your progress daily either manually or by using a wearable fitness tracker. This will also serve as a reminder if you are not on track and will help keep you motivated.
- Celebrate your successes – If you reach your goal, treat yourself with something you have wanted to do. Instead of splurging on unhealthy foods take yourself out on a movie or pamper yourself with a trip to the spa. Do whatever motivates you to keep the good results coming.
Guidelines for exercise
Recommendations for both young and old
- Cardiovascular exercise should be done a total of 150 minutes each week and should be done 5 days per week with moderate intensity like brisk walking.
- If you prefer vigorous exercise like jogging or swimming laps, you should exercise a total of 75 minutes each week and should be done 3 times per week.
- It is important to not try to do too much too soon. This will help you avoid soreness and fatigue.
- Be consistent and give your body time to adapt to enjoy the many benefits of exercise.