After writing a recent post regarding calorie intake and limits, I made a note to myself to come back and remind people about the benefits of exercise. Sometimes when I am talking about weight control I give the impression that I do not appreciate exercise. That could not be further from the truth. Not only do I appreciate it, I engage in it on a daily basis. Daily - meaning each and every day (with rare exceptions).
I have dedicated many posts to this subject. You can use the search feature on the right side of the blog on the blogsite to find them.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans can be read in full at the CDC website here. The guidelines give the type of exercise, the duration and the frequency that is necessary for optimal health. The countless benefits of physical activity are also noted in the document.
It is important to engage in activities that increase your heart rate such as walking, cycling, swimming, running, and playing sports on a regular basis. One should strive for daily exercise but vary the amount of time spent and the type of activity. For example, exercise seven days a week, but on some days ride a bike, others swim, golf or walk etc. Some days you might exercise for an hour and others for only 30 minutes. The weekly goals are provided on the CDC website. The second recommendation is strength training - activities that build, condition or strengthen your muscles (e.g., weight lifting, resistance training and power yoga). Balance and core work is also important. Simply practicing standing on one foot for 30 seconds a few times a week will work. If that's so easy you could do it all day, try it with your eyes closed or raise your leg higher.
Research has shown that exercise - being physically active - is associated with improved health, both physical and mental, and a decrease in disease, cancer, the effects of aging, and all cause mortality. Physical activity also improves mood, agility and assists in weight control.
I especially like this post that shows the different levels of expenditure based on exercise types. And this one that talks about motivation to exercise.
Lastly a little clarification about different terms you might hear. Even though we often use physical activity and exercise to mean the same thing, they are actually different.
Physical activity is any kind of moving about with your whole body - big movements that you do throughout the day count. Exercise is always physical activity but physical activity is not always exercise! For example, you are being physically active doing your chores, reaching, bending, carrying - but that is not exercise. It is still GOOD - better than being still. Much better.
Exercise is planned action you take to increase your heart rate for a predetermined amount of time. If you decide to go for a 30 minute walk or jog, you have decided to exercise.
Sedentary behavior is the opposite of exercise and physical activity. It is what you want to avoid because it is associated with metabolic (under the skin) changes that can make you more likely to get a disease (e.g., diabetes, hypertension). Sitting around is sedentary behavior - as is lying about - try not to sit for more than an hour without doing some moving around ( aka physical activity!).