By: Kelly Bonner
Yes, YOU, sitting there behind your computer screen about to skip to the next article. I’m talking to the mom of three who isn’t interested unless I am referring to sleep, the single male in his thirties that is “active enough for now,” the retiree that thinks he got enough in his younger days that he doesn’t have to worry about it now, and the female teenager sitting in her wheelchair thinking she couldn’t possibly be referring to me. Do You Get Enough physical activity?
It’s a tag line for NCHPAD. The Surgeon General consistently recommends physical activity. But, if we are really, truly honest with ourselves, how many of us actually get enough physical activity every week? Or maybe we need to start one step before that and ask, “Do you know how much activity is enough,” and “Hey, while we’re being honest and asking questions, enough for what? What does that even mean?"
Let’s break it down.
In 1994, Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders published her first report on physical activity and health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the primary message of this report was to tell Americans that they can substantially improve their health and quality of life by including moderate amounts of physical activity in their daily lives. Since that time the message hasn’t changed much: Moderate amounts of physical activity can substantially increase the health of individuals. The current recommendations* suggest that adults should get 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity every week. That breaks down to 30 minutes a day, five days a week. The more vigorous a workout, the fewer minutes one needs to exercise, though additional health benefits can be seen with greater amounts of physical activity.
So basically the CDC is saying that 30 minutes is just a baseline and, depending on the situation, more exercise may be necessary. One great example is weight loss. In order to lose weight, it is recommended that you get at least 60 minutes of moderate activity a day, for most, if not all, days of the week. Other individuals might also benefit from extended periods of exercise, like those with high blood pressure or diabetes.
What does moderate intensity really entail? Examples of moderate intensity exercises include walking at a pace of at least three miles per hour, water aerobics, biking at five to nine miles per hour, dancing or gardening. Examples of vigorous activity include running, swimming laps, or biking faster than 10 miles per hour.
A great way to measure how vigorous your exercise is without measuring your heart rate is the talk test. If you can sing while exercising then you are not working hard enough, but if you can barely get out a word while you are exercising then you are probably exercising very vigorously. You want to strive for somewhere in between. If you are conversing with a friend while you are exercising and every now and then you have to stop chatting and catch your breath then that is just about right!
One of the biggest problems researchers have found is errors in self-reporting. They have found that people actually over-report how much or how intense their activity really is (just like we underreport our weight for our driver’s licenses). So again, let’s be honest and answer whether we truly get enough.