Physical Activity for Good Health
Physical activity is important for emotional and physical health, well-being in general, and to achieve a healthy weight level. Physical activity may help control your weight by using excess calories that would otherwise be stored as fat. Most foods and many beverages you eat and drink contain calories, and everything you do uses calories. This includes sleeping, breathing, digesting food, and of course, moving around. Balancing the calories you eat with the calories you use through physical activity may help you maintain your current weight or lose weight.Calories in Food > Calories Used = Weight Gain
Calories in Food < Calories Used = Weight Loss
Calories in Food = Calories Used = Weight Control
How Much Physical Activity Necessary for General Health?
Experts recommend at least 30-minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week. This amount of physical activity may reduce your risk for some chronic diseases.
To successfully lose weight, experts suggest you do at least 60-minutes of moderate to high intensity physical activity on most days of the week. In addition, you should follow a nutritious eating plan and consume fewer calories than you burn each day. Remember your weight may be affected by the balance of “calories-in” and “calories-out.”
In order to maintain your weight after weight loss, experts recommend that you do 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity while continuing to eat nutritious foods that do not exceed your calorie requirements. Studies show that physical activity is extremely important to successful long-term weight control.
People may need to do different amounts of physical activity to lose and control weight. You may find that you need to do more, or that you may not need to do as much. Also, remember your eating plan and the number of calories you consume are important. You may wish to consult with a health care provider, a fitness specialist, or dietitian about the right amount of activity and calories for you.
Health Benefits of Physical Activity
Regular physical activity may help control your weight and may help:
Reduce your risk of or manage chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, and some cancers.
Build strong muscles, bones, and joints.
Ward off depression.
- Improve mood and sense of well-being.
Becoming Physically Active
Physical activity may include structured activities, such as walking, jogging, strength training, or sports. It may also include daily activities such as household chores, yard work, or walking the dog. Pick a combination of structured and daily activities that fits your schedule.
If you have been inactive for a while, start slowly and work up to at least 30-minutes per day at a pace that is comfortable for you. If you are unable to be active for 30-minutes at one time, accumulate activity over the course of the day in 10-15-minute sessions. For example, whether you take three 10-minute walks or walk for 30-minutes all at once, you will achieve the same health benefits.
If you want to lose weight, you may need to do more than 30-minutes of physical activity per day. Remember that you can be active in several shorter sessions, and that your daily activities count towards calories used.
One way to meet your physical activity goals is by participating in aerobic activities. Aerobic exercise includes any activity that makes you breathe hard and increases your heart rate for a sustained period of time. Common aerobic activities include walking, swimming, and bicycling.
Experts recommend moderate-intensity exercise. This pace may make you breathe harder and make it more difficult to talk, but you should still be able to carry on a conversation. If you are just beginning, slowly work up to moving at a moderate-intensity pace.
Here are some ideas to help you start your physical activity program:
Take a brisk walk around the block with family, friends, or coworkers.
Walk up the stairs instead of taking the elevator when it is safe to do so.
Mow the lawn.
Take an activity break at work or home. Get up, stretch, and walk around.
Park your car farther away from entrances of stores, movie theatres, or your home and walk the extra distance when it is safe to do so.
- Take a beginner’s level low-impact aerobics or step class.
Strength training is another way for you to meet the recommended minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day. Strength training will help you burn extra calories, build strong muscles, bones, and joints, and improve your physical functioning.
Experts recommend strength training 2 to 3 days each week, with 1-full day of rest between workouts to allow your muscles to recover. If you are new to strength training or physical activity in general, consider hiring a certified personal trainer who can plan an individualized program to help you work out safely and effectively. A personal trainer who has a degree in exercise physiology or is certified through a national certification program, such as the American College of Sports Medicine or National Strength and Conditioning Association, may be able to help you reach your physical activity goals.
Mind and Body Exercise
In addition to aerobic activity and strength training, you may wish to include other forms of exercise in your physical activity program. Alternatives to traditional exercise provide variety and fun. They may also help reduce stress, increase muscular strength and flexibility, and increase energy levels. Examples of these exercises include yoga, Pilates, and tai chi.
Tips for a Safe and Successful Physical Activity Program
Check with your health care provider. If you have a chronic health problem, such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease or high blood pressure, ask your health care provider about what type and amount of physical activity is right for you.
Start slowly. Incorporate more physical activity into your daily routine and gradually work up to 30-minutes per day to improve health, 60-minutes per day to lose weight, or 60 to 90-minutes per day to manage weight.
Set goals. Set both short-term and long-term goals to keep motivated.
Set rewards. Celebrate every success you achieve, because you earned it!
Track progress. Keep an activity log to track your progress. Note when you worked out, what activity you did, how long you did the activity, and how you felt during your workout. Also, record the days that you did not workout and what may have caused you to change your routine.
Think variety. Choose a variety of physical activities to help you meet your goals, prevent boredom, and keep your mind and body challenged.
Be comfortable. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes that are appropriate to the activity you will be doing.
Listen to your body. Stop exercising and consult your health care provider if you experience chest discomfort or pain, dizziness, severe headache, or other unusual symptoms while you work out. If pain does not go away, get medical help right away. If you are feeling fatigued or sick, take time off from your routine to rest. You can ease back into your program when you start feeling better.
Eat nutritious foods. Choose a variety of nutritious foods every day. Remember that your health and weight depend on both your eating plan and physical activity level. Healthful foods will give you the energy you need to be active.
- Get support. Encourage your family and friends to support you and join you in your activity. Form walking groups with coworkers, play with your children outside, or take a dance class with friends.
Move at your own pace while you enjoy some of these activities:
aerobic exercise classes (step aerobics, kick boxing, high- or low-impact aerobics)
dancing (square dancing, salsa, African dance, swing)
- playing sports (tennis, basketball, soccer)
Get Strong! Build strong muscles and bones with strengthening exercises. Try:
Lifting free weights or using weight machines.
Using resistance bands.
Using stability or medicine balls.
- Doing push-ups and abdominal crunches.
Regular physical activity can help you feel and move better. Whether your goal is to achieve and maintain a healthy weight or improve your health, becoming physically active is a step in the right direction. It is never too early or too late to make physical activity a part of your life!