It’s all about movement but what kind and how much? Last week, the Guidelines for Physical Activity were released by the Department of Health and Human Services. Basically it calls ” . . . for a minimum of 150-minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, an amount most reasonable on five days a week at a duration of 30 minutes.” What exactly do they mean by “physical activity?” And what is “moderate-intensity?” Remember, this public health agency is concerned with just that, the public health, because much of the “public” has stopped moving. “Its aim is to try to simply move people out of the lowest levels of cardiorespiratory fitness because studies have shown that it can have a profound (and beneficial) effect on the public health.” (Dr. Barry A. Franklin, American Heart Association). Conversely, being sedentary is one of the major risk factors for the development of coronary artery disease.
So let’s talk about movement. I like to think of it as an umbrella. Picture this: a drawing of a large umbrella with the words “All Movement” written above it. Under the umbrella on one side of the handle is written “Physical Activity”and on the other side “Exercise.” All physical activity is movement while exercise is more purposeful movement. Sometimes physical activity even means the same thing as exercise! More about that later . You need to do both to improve your health and fitness. One of the problems, as I said above, is that our society has made it easy to not move. We can drive to, through, around, and by most of our daily errands and many of our communities do not make it easy to get around on foot or bicycle. Our challenge is to find ways to be more physically active throughout the day and to engage in some purposeful exercise.
Some of you have commented on the difficulty of getting started on an exercise program. You don’t have to go to a gym. Two of the best pieces of exercise equipment that you may already own are a good pair of athletic shoes and a dog! Walking is a great way to get started and to keep going but that brings me back to the phrase above, “moderate-intensity.” What exactly does that mean? Moderate-intensity is defined as an intensity equivalent to a “brisk walk that increases your heart rate” but still allows you to carry on a conversation during exercise. As for the 30-minutes per day, those can be in 10-minute increments accumulated thoughout the day. As you increase your fitness level, your endurance for exercise, and your confidence level, you will not only be able to do more, you might even find yourself wanting to do more, to walk or swim further and faster while really looking forward to it and enjoying it. The best thing that can happen is that it becomes part of you and you won’t be able to imagine a day without your workout! Sometimes your errands can become your workout. For example, last week I told you that I run every other day. On the days I don’t run I may take a brisk walk to the library, about a 30-minute round trip, or ride my bike over to a friend’s house instead of driving.
What’s important is the totality of movement throughout your day and your week that adds up to an improved health and fitness level. It makes what you do when you’re not exercising important, too. It encompasses all of your daily physical activities such as walking up and down the stairs at home, doing the laundry, taking the steps you need to at work, and doing whatever else you do all day that involves moving. That may mean a minute here, two-minutes there and a few more here-and-there but those activities may not be sustained long enough or at an intensity level to constitute “exercise” as meant in the above guidelines. Just because you are active doesn’t mean that you are meeting the minimum recommendations for exercise. That’s where you need to add your purposeful movement, or “exercise routine,” of walking, swimming or cycling–those aerobic activities I talked about a couple of weeks ago that increase your heart rate and cardiovascular endurance. Factor in some strength training two or three days a week on non-consecutive days, do warm-ups and cool-down stretches, and you are well on your way to a healthier lifestyle under that umbrella for all seasons. It’s all about movement and it all adds up. Start moving. Keep moving. Get physical!
Yours in fitness,
Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN
Certified Clinical Specialist, ACSM
Certified Personal Trainer, ACSM