Making It All Count: The Big Picture of Physical Activity
|Associate Director, Amy Rauworth|
There are 1,440 minutes in a day, so finding 30 minutes to devote to physical activity doesn't seem like it should be a challenge. But then life happens and suddenly we find that our time has been hijacked. The illustration below can help you learn how to steal back your minutes and make it all count.
|Physical Activity Pyramid|
Beginning at the top of the pyramid, fitness-related physical activity can be described as what many of us typically think of when we hear the word exercise: structured physical activity. The benefits of structured physical activity include lowering risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some kinds of cancer. Exercise can also reduce total blood cholesterol levels while increasing good cholesterol, as well as improve insulin sensitivity. Engaging in physical activity may also result in reduced feelings of depression and anxiety. Exercise releases endorphins, and can produce feelings of well-being. According to the updated Physical Activity Guidelines for healthy adults under the age of 65, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA) now suggest the following amount of activity to maintain health and reduce the risk for chronic disease.
Do moderately intense cardiovascular exercise 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week
Do vigorously intense cardiovascular exercise 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week
Do 8 to 10 strength-training exercises, 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week.
To learn more about these guidelines and what is suggested for adults over the age of 65 go to: ACSM's Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults Over Age 65 (or adults 50-64 with chronic conditions, such as arthritis)
Always remember to start out slowly and increase gradually. If continuous exercise is difficult for you, try several bouts of exercise. If you are not ready for structured exercise, choose another category to increase your movement throughout the day.
The next layer of the pyramid consists of leisure physical activity. Many times, leisure is associated with the word, "fun!" If structured exercise in a gym sounds terrible to you, try out this category and involve your friends and family. Learn a new activity such as kayaking or golf. This is also a great category to encourage children and adolescents with disabilities to build lifelong skills that will keep them active throughout their lifespan.
A layer of the pyramid that is often overlooked is the task-oriented activity category. This category may be used to set obtainable goals that will provide you with a sense of accomplishment and success. For example, if you walk or roll to get your mail on a daily basis, try going to the mailbox the same number of times as you have letters. Making 5 trips to the mailbox throughout the day can easily increase your activity level and allow you to decrease the amount of time that you remain in a sedentary position. Before you know it, you will notice that your joints are not quite as stiff and that overall movement is easier when you move more frequently. Other options might be to fold laundry and put away each item separately or to wash one window in your home every day. Not only will you be moving more, but also your home will soon be sparkling! (Some items categorized in this area such as watering your plants or walking your dog could be considered a task or leisure recreation.)
Some movement cannot be labeled as fitness-related, leisure, or task-oriented. This completes the base of our pyramid and is referred to here as residual movement. This is the ancillary movement that you do throughout the day and includes the energy that your body utilizes to exist.
The good news is that we burn calories just existing! The amount of energy required to maintain body functions at rest is called your basal metabolic rate. This rate can increase or decrease, depending on the amount of lean tissue (muscle mass) or fat mass that a person possesses. The bad news is that as we age, our basal metabolic rate decreases. The more physically active you are, the higher your basal metabolic rate will be.
To determine how many calories you need to exist, calculate your basal metabolic rate below:
Understanding your basal metabolic rate is helpful when considering your nutritional choices and can provide motivation to stay active.
In the big picture of physical activity, everything counts. Use the information provided above to rethink your activity and to establish real, obtainable daily goals that can make a big difference in making your resolutions a reality.
For comments and feedback, please feel free to contact Amy Rauworth at firstname.lastname@example.org.