RxErcise: New Physical Activity Guidelines

Reading this is probably the best thing you can do while sitting still. The new guidelines, summarized in the Journal of the American Medical Association are the first update in 10 years to recommend what we should all be doing to live an active, healthy lifestyle. Much research has shown that about 8% of deaths could be prevented if people exercised 20-30 minutes 5-6 days per week. Furthermore, the new publication reports that $117 billion per year in the US are because of sedentary lifestyle. With so many things linked to physical activity, the Department of Health and Human Services have revised the 2008 guidelines to give us all their recommendations for the optimal level of physical activity we should all have.

Here are several things exercise has been associated with, as early as after the first time you exercise:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Lower stress
  • Better mood
  • More energy
  • Living longer
  • Less inflammation

There are many reasons to exercise for both your mental and physical health. The recommendations are broken into 4 main kinds of physical activity:

  1. Aerobic – This is the type of exercise such as jogging or swimming where your heart rate goes up, you breathe heavier, and you do the activity for a sustained amount of time.
  2. Muscle strengthening – This is the type of exercise, such as weight-lifting where the goal is to do strenuous bursts of activity for certain muscle groups.
  3. Bone strengthening – This type refers to weight-bearing exercise that put some stress on bones and encourage bone strength/growth. It often overlaps with aerobic and muscle strengthening exercise.
  4. Balance – These exercises improve balance and often help strengthen the core muscles such as the back and torso.

The intensity of the workout, or how “hard” it is for you is recommended to be at the moderate-to-vigorous level. The best way to check this is to be exercising hard enough so that you can still say short sentences, but are breathing too heavy to be able to speak normally. They point out that how long you should exercise to get the same benefit depends at least in part on how intense your workout is. The more intense your workout, the less time you need to spend doing it to achieve the same health benefits.

Intensity-Duration Exercise Graphic

The actual guidelines are great in providing both philosophical and specific recommendations. Broadly, they recommend that people should move more and sit less. The more you move, the better it is. Specifically, they recommend at least

150-300 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise spread throughout the week and doing at least some moderate intensity muscle strengthening exercise on 2 or more days per week, but the more the better.

Older adults who can’t meet these guidelines should be as active as possible.

Don’t think you have time for that much exercise? Think again! You can work hard, play hard, so-to-speak, and do vigorous aerobic exercise that works in strength training for just 75-150 minutes per week and reap the same benefits. If you don’t have a spare hour and 15 minutes over the whole week to help yourself feel better, live longer, and fend off several leading health problems, it might be worth restructuring your day to fit it in.

It’s hard to argue that you don’t have time to be more active, especially when the benefits are so many. After all, taking the time now to be more active will likely help you live a longer, happier, and healthier life! It’s never too early or too late to start. If you have questions about exercise or are wondering if you’re healthy enough to exercise, talk to your doctor for advice.

When it comes a miracle prescription for health, this one is for RxErcise!

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