Benefits of Being Active

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY GUIDELINES

How much physical activity gives optimal benefit to extend lifespan and raise the quality of life? Most experts advise adults to do moderate activity such as a brisk walk, swimming or gardening for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. (Youths should aim for 60 minutes a day.)

Or, enjoy 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise (jogging, running or aerobic dancing). Can you do more? People who engage in moderate exercise for 450 minutes a week reap the biggest benefit to longevity.

Details:

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Mayo Clinic exercise answers 

New York Times (Right Dose of Exercise)

STRENGTHEN MUSCLES & BONES

Bones and muscles grow strong when they push and tug against each other during weight-bearing activity, such as walking, lifting weights or calisthenics (pushups, etc.).

Adults should challenge their muscles with resistance training at last 2-3 days a week. The exercise can improve balance, reducing the risk of falls among older adults. It also increases the metabolism to help with weight control.

Swimming and bicycling are not weight-bearing activities, but they help build muscles, and strong muscles help build strong bones.

Details:

National Institutes of Health on bone health

NIH Bone Health Center activity guide 

CARDIOVASCULAR/AEROBIC

No mystery. Exercise that makes your heart beat faster (virtually all exercise does) strengthens your heart muscle. That improves your ability to pump oxygen-carrying blood to your lungs and throughout the body.

Aerobic conditioning is an important part of any exercise program, because it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and also burns calories. Exercise helps eliminate heart-attack-inducing waxy plaque that builds up in blood vessels.

Details:

National Institute of Heart Lung and Blood exercise benefits

Mayo Clinic 10 Reasons to Exercise 

Johns Hopkins University Women’s Heart Health 

FLEXIBILITY

Strengthening and stretching muscles, ligaments and tendons improves body flexibility in many ways that promote wellness. Adults should do activities to improve flexibility and joint mobility at least 2-3 times per week.

Flexibility can ward off back pain – a leading cause of pain and disability – as well as prevent other injuries, improve balance and avoid falls. A well-stretched muscle preserves full ability to reach, bend, stoop and walk. Stretching helps you wake up in the morning and relax at night.

Yoga and tai chi are excellent aids to flexibility, but you can also rely on simple exercises like leg lifts, chest stretches, push-ups and pull-ups.

Details:

American Heart Association on stretching 

Sports Fitness Advisor on stretching

National Institute on Aging: Stretching for Seniors 

Functional Fitness

“Functional Fitness” exercises do more than make you fit. They also are designed to have a practical and specific benefit on your everyday life.

First, they build fitness in the upper and/or lower body while stabilizing the body core. Second, they strengthen muscles that you use for your everyday activities. For example, a squat builds the muscles that you use to get up and down from a chair or to pick up an object.

These exercises can involve added weight or simply use your own body weight. They are a great idea for people who struggle with certain specific activities in their daily lives. Get advice from a therapist or exercise coach.

Details:

Mayo Clinic on functional fitness

Injury Prevention

Exercising will not do much good if you overdo it and injury yourself. You lose fitness during recovery time when you can’t exercise, and you may even go backward from where you were.

Common exercise injuries: Sprain (injury to ligaments, which connect bone to bone), strain (injury to muscles or tendons, which connect muscle to bones), tendinitis (inflammation, usually from overuse), tendinosis (chronic tendinitis) and tears in the knees or other joints.

Strengthening muscles and improving flexibility can decrease the risk of injury, especially to the lower back, shoulders and knees. Be sensible exercising, follow good practices and don’t ignore problems.

Details:

Harvard University 10 tips to prevent injury

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disease