How Can Movement Improve Your Health?

By Amanda Roland

While we are all cooped up in our houses for the time being, we can forget the importance of movement. You may ask, “Can any kind of movement improve your health?” The answer is yes! Read on to find out how easy it can be to get a moderate amount of movement in everyday to keep you as healthy as possible.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.” Our bodies weren’t meant to be sedentary. In fact, it is listed as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. These are called modifiable risk factors because they can be controlled through an intervention of medication or exercise. Every one of the aforementioned risk factors for cardiovascular disease can be reduced or eliminated through exercise. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease accounts for one in every three deaths in the United States. As we enter this new decade, we are seeing a startling trend where medicine is advancing, but our health is declining.

The rise in technology has us stuck in a chair, staring like zombies into a computer screen. We can’t change the fact that our world revolves around computers, but what we can do is add more movement to our lives. Many of the people that are reading this are thinking, “Not me! I read a wellness magazine and workout.” To quote the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, “Approximately 80% of U.S. adults and adolescents are insufficiently active. Physical activity fosters normal growth and development and can make people feel, function and sleep better and reduce risk of many chronic diseases.” We need to spread the word, and get our loved ones to buy in. Our children are developing high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and are more prone to illness than ever before. They are developing bad habits that carry over into adulthood. Do it for them! This is indeed a crisis that can be mitigated through something so simple. It just requires people to take the leap and treat exercise as a vital and necessary requirement to improve your health. It lessens the burden on the healthcare system and our families, and it improves our quality of life.

The good news is that it doesn’t take much! According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, we should be doing something active for 30 minutes for five days out of the week. Most of us are up for 16 hours a day, with eight hours for work and maybe an hour for commuting. We can carve out 30 minutes to exercise, and although we should strive for more, 30 minutes is a great place to start. A good goal would be to build up to 60 minutes a day. Time is just one way to monitor our physical activity, and with the arrival of step counters, we can track how much we move in a day. The magic number is 10,000 steps in a day. That may seem like a lot, but if you incorporate opportunities to walk rather than drive or take the stairs rather than the elevator, you can make it part of your day.

If you are just starting out, it’s best to start on the lighter end of intensity. You can measure intensity using what is called the “talk test.” Can you carry on a conversation while doing the exercise? If so, then the intensity is low enough. Increase the duration of your exercise before the intensity. When you are ready, you can increase the intensity. The benefit of increasing the intensity is that you can get away with exercising for less time. The minimum for low-intensity exercise is 150 minutes a week (30 minutes a day, five times a week). With more vigorous exercise, you can get away with 75 minutes a week. Walking is a great mode to start with.

To quote my physiology professor, Dr. Sherry Pinkstaff, “Exercise is safe, not exercising is not safe.” So, can movement improve your health? Yes! It doesn’t take much to get the benefits of exercise; it just has to become part of your life. Stop thinking of it as a burdensome task and more of an opportunity to do what you were meant to do!

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