Memorial Regional Health: Benefits of exercise extend beyond weight — physical activity good for mental health, disease prevention, happiness
- Only a few lifestyle choices have as large an impact on your health as physical activity. People who are physically active for about seven hours per week have a 40 percent lower risk of dying early than those who are active for less than 30 minutes per week.
- You don’t have to do high amounts of activity or vigorous-intensity activity to reduce your risk of premature death. You can put yourself at lower risk of dying early by doing at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.
- Everyone can gain the health benefits of physical activity — age, ethnicity, shape or size do not matter.
- Make exercise fun by doing things you enjoy and varying your routine.
- Join a league or take group fitness classes.
- Make physical activity part of your routine by scheduling it at the same time each day.
- Invite friends or family to join you, or organize a workout group with neighbors or colleagues.
Colorado might have the lowest obesity rate in the United States, but about a quarter of Moffat County residents are obese and physically inactive, according to state health rankings.
Adults should do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, 75 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity or some combination of the two, according to U.S. health guidelines.
“For additional and more extensive health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes 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,” according to Harvard Medical School.
Get your heart rate up
Aerobic activity is anything that gets your heart rate up. If you don’t have a gym membership, there are still plenty of ways to incorporate exercise into your day, such as taking the stairs, riding a bike, marching in place, walking at a brisk pace or running, to name a few.
For home, Harvard Medical School suggests strength-training exercises that require just basic items around the house. You can use a chair to practice yoga or assist with stomach crunches, and you can use soup cans in place of arm weights. Heel raises, squats, seated knee extensions, leg lifts or planks against the wall are other effective home exercises.
What’s important is to keep at it and never get out of your routine — not even during vacation, according to Harvard Medical School. Taking time off from an exercise routine could lead you to stray from the routine altogether.
If you sit in an office, the Mayo Clinic suggests taking fitness breaks rather than heading to the lounge for a snack. Take a walk around the building, walk up and down a flight of stairs or do some stretches. It’s also helpful to have a partner at work, so you can help motivate each other. Schedule a walking meeting instead of a conference room meeting, or try commuting to work by walking or biking instead of driving, if that’s an option.
Exercise not just about weight
Body mass index is a screening tool health care professionals use to determine if someone is overweight or obese. The BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his or her height in meters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A BMI between 25 and 30 is overweight, and a BMI of 30 or higher is obese, according to the scale.
Physical activity isn’t all about weight, though. The benefits extend into other areas of your life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical exercise can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, cholesterol and some cancers. It can also strengthen your bones and muscles — especially important as you age — to slow the loss of bone density and lower the risks of hip fracture and arthritis.
Physical exercise is also good for mental health and mood, reducing the risk of depression.