Regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your health. It impacts your mental state, can help you manage your weight, reduce your risk of diseases, strengthen your bones and muscles, and improve your stamina for everyday life.
It’s time to get moving in May! This month’s health observance is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. The purpose is to raise awareness of the importance of active living and sports participation. Physical activity is a necessity for everyone. However, no matter your activity level, you can find a way to incorporate movement that works for you and get active your way.
We’re In An Inactivity Pandemic
We’ve all become comfortable with our leisurely ways. Obesity is widespread, with over 42 percent of American adults falling in that category. Being obese increases your risk of developing preventable chronic conditions like heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Why is this happening? One factor is that we spend the majority of time in front of screens at home and work, and we sit now more than ever.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Physical Activity Council determined that physical inactivity was a pandemic we must reverse. Their statistics showed that 82 million Americans were completely sedentary and that more people were dying from inactivity than smoking. This May, we can rise to the challenge and become more active by looking for ways to be more active together! So, how do you know how much activity to get?
What are Physical Activity Guidelines?
According to the CDC, less than 30 percent of adults get the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity each week. Yet, getting the appropriate amount of physical activity fosters normal growth and development in children and can make adults feel better, function better, sleep better, and reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. So let’s talk about what the guidelines recommend:
Physical activity guidelines for pre-school children
- Pre-school children should participate in physical activity throughout the day to enhance growth and development.
- Caregivers should encourage and participate in a variety of activity types.
Physical activity guidelines for children
- Children and young adults aged 6-17 should participate in 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day.
- Physical activity should include aerobic exercise three times per week and two to three days of muscle and bone-strengthening activities.
Physical activity guidelines for adults
- It is important for adults to minimize the amount of sitting they are doing each day.
- Adults should participate in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, with the addition of muscle-strengthening activities two days per week.
Physical activity guidelines for pregnant women
- Women who were physically active before pregnancy should still aim for two hours and 30 minutes of physical activity per week.
- All activities should be discussed and approved by a health care provider as the pregnancy progresses and post-partum.
Physical activity guidelines for the disabled
- Adults with chronic conditions or disabilities should still aim for 150 minutes of activity per week plus muscle-strengthening activities, as they are able.
- If you cannot meet these requirements, you should seek out modified activity alternatives and be approved by your health care provider.
Remember, these are just guidelines. If you haven’t been active before, it’s essential to start at a comfortable level that your condition or doctor allows. Then, once you build up stamina, you can continue to add more activity each time until you work up to moderate to vigorous exercise levels. Some activity is better than none. The more you do, the greater the health benefits and the better you’ll feel.
Types of Physical Activity
To get all the health benefits of physical activity, you should do a combination of aerobic, muscle, and bone-strengthening exercises.
- Aerobic activities make you breathe harder and cause your heart to beat faster. You want to get your heart rate up 50 to 60 percent higher than its resting rate. Everyday aerobic activities include walking fast, dancing, or swimming.
- Muscle-strengthening activities improve your strength, stability, balance, and flexibility. These activities include lifting weights or using resistance exercise bands.
- Bone-strengthening activities produce a force that promotes bone growth and strength through impact with the ground. These include running, jumping rope, and team sports, such as basketball and tennis.
All sorts of activities count for physical fitness! Find the combination of exercises on a schedule that works for you.
Get Active Your Way
The expression, “Rome wasn’t built in a day, ” also applies to increasing your activity levels. Start by doing what you can, and then look for ways to do more. Being active has so many health benefits, such as lowering your risk of heart disease, improving your mood by reducing stress, and helping with your weight management.
Want some additional help and guidance? Watch our Get Active Your Way webinar.
Picking the Right Physical Activity
The most important thing to remember is to choose an activity that you find fun. Are you an indoor or outdoor person? Do you enjoy the structure of a workout class or would you rather mix it up? Are you more social or prefer to be alone? For example, Walking is one easy and free way to add physical activity into your life.
Go For A Walk
Physical activity doesn’t need to be complicated. Walking is a great starter exercise. It’s typically free and can be done anywhere, all you need is comfy clothes, supportive shoes, and the time to do it. Not sure where to start? In the beginning, start walking 10 minutes a day during the first couple of weeks. Then, as you increase your stamina, begin walking a little longer by trying 15 minutes and slowing increase to 30 minutes. If you have a bigger goal in mind, try a Couch to 5k program, and go get that medal!
Try New Things
Not interested in walking? You are more likely to abandon a healthy lifestyle goal if it doesn’t suit your lifestyle. If you are unsure what activities you enjoy, then this is a great time to try a bunch of new things. Here are more tips for integrating more activity into your daily life:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Do yard work or chores
- Find a workout buddy
- Find a running group or try out biking or cycling
- Join an exercise class or sports team
- Dance at home or take lessons
- Do stretches or yoga
- Try swimming or water aerobics
- Do abdominal crunches, jumping jacks, push-ups, or other bodyweight exercises during tv commercial breaks
- Try standing throughout the day
- Visit a park, trail, or other outdoor space that encourages physical activity
If you are stuck on what types of activities to try, think back to things you enjoyed during your childhood or use your children as a way to reconnect with play. Defining what activities bring you joy is the first step.
Finding Time for Exercise
Now that you have some ideas of physical activities you may enjoy, it’s time to integrate them into your life. The recommendation is 150 minutes per week. That is 2 hours and 30 minutes per week. Broken up even further, that’s only 30 minutes over five days! That is completely doable, even for someone who is living a more sedentary life. Take a look at your schedule and see when you can incorporate more chunks of activity. Everyone’s schedule is different. You may be a morning person and want to take a jog while the sun rises, or you may want to take a walk on your lunch break, or you may want to lift weights or take a kickboxing class in the evening to relieve the stress of the day.
- Find the time that works best for you.
- Be active with friends and family. Having a support network can help you keep up with your program.
- Talk to your health care provider about how you should spread aerobic activity out and recommended activities to try.
So, are you ready to get started building your new physically active lifestyle?
Getting Started with Exercise
There are many ways to build the right amount of activity into your life. Every little bit adds up and doing something is better than doing nothing. The key to getting started is to keep it simple and small. Define what physical activity you will do and then when and where you will complete it.
Download our FREE Getting Started with Exercise Worksheet. It will help you identify the benefits you hope to achieve from active living as well as any potential roadblocks.