Spring is here! It’s a perfect time to get up, get out, get moving, and enjoy the benefits of physical activity.
Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Moving more and sitting less has tremendous benefits for everyone, regardless of age, sex, race, ethnicity, or current fitness level. It’s important to note that lack of physical activity creates a great environment for developing health issues that many times could have been avoided.
Americans are not currently doing a very good job at prioritizing physical activity. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 80% of adults are not meeting the key guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity, and only 50% meet the key guidelines for aerobic physical activity. Approximately 31 million adults aged 50 or older are inactive, meaning that they get no physical activity beyond that of daily living. This lack of physical activity is directly linked to approximately $117 billion in annual health care costs and about 10 percent of premature death in the United States.
Regular exercise helps prevent and/or manage many health problems and concerns, including:
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Many types of cancer
- Balance issues, leading to falling
- Cognitive function
By prioritizing physical activity, you are prioritizing your own short-term and long-term health. Here are 10 reasons to not only get moving, but also to keep moving!
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Better Emotional Health
Getting enough physical activity can immediately reduce feelings of anxiety and help you sleep better. Over the long term, it can reduce the risk of depression. Regular walking, for example, can improve your mood, and walking in a group can help you remain socially connected to your neighbors and friends.
Better Brain Function
Regular physical activity can keep your thinking, focus, learning, and judgment skills sharp and delay the decline of these skills as you age.
More Money in Your Wallet
Not getting enough physical activity can increase your risk of developing a chronic disease, which comes with higher health care costs. Staying active is good for your health and also your wallet!
Lower Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the United States. Regular activity at a moderate intensity level can help lower risk for these diseases. Regular physical activity can also lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.
Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes or Diabetes Complications
More than 37 million Americans have diabetes. Another 88 million U.S. adults are prediabetic, which puts them at risk of type 2 diabetes. Regular physical activity helps prevent type 2 diabetes. If you already have diabetes (type 1 or type 2), you can help control your blood sugar levels by staying active.
Lower Risk of Some Cancers
Getting the recommended amount of physical activity can lower the risk of many cancers. These include cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, lung, and stomach.
Being physically active can reduce your risk of dying early from leading causes of death such as heart disease and diabetes. According to the American Medical Association, approximately 110,000 deaths per year could be prevented if U.S. adults age 40 and older increased moderate-to-vigorous physical activity by even 10 minutes a day.
Stronger Bones and Muscles
Doing aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and bone-strengthening physical activity at a moderately intense level can slow the loss of bone density that comes with age. Hip fracture is a serious health condition that can have life-changing negative effects, especially if you’re an older adult. Physically active people have a lower risk of hip fracture than inactive people.
Fewer Sick Days
Physically active people tend to take fewer sick days. Some workplace wellness programs offer a gym, gym membership, or outdoor walking paths. If your workplace doesn’t have a wellness program, you can always add physical activity on your own with walking meetings, physical activity breaks during long meetings, or taking a walk during your lunch break.
Exercise Controls Weight
Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss. When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn. Any amount of activity is better than none. To reap the benefits of exercise, just get more active throughout your day—take the stairs instead of the elevator or rev up your household chores. Consistency is the key to better health.
For most healthy adults, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends these exercise guidelines:
- Aerobic activity. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise during the course of a week. Being active for short periods of time throughout the day can add up to provide health benefits.
- Strength training. Do strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week. Aim to do a single set of each exercise using a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions.
- Moderate aerobic exercise includes activities such as brisk walking, biking, swimming, and mowing the lawn. Vigorous aerobic exercise includes activities such as running, heavy yard work, and aerobic dancing. Strength training can include use of weight machines, your own body weight, heavy bags, resistance tubing or resistance paddles in the water, or activities such as rock climbing.
If physical activity is not currently part of your routine and you have a chronic health condition, be sure to check with your doctor before beginning anything new. The best way to ensure success is to pick activities you enjoy, start slow, possibly commit to exercising with a friend, and schedule the time into your day. Although it may seem like a challenge to squeeze the time into your busy schedule and stick with it in the beginning, you will soon get used to the routine and begin to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits from regular exercise.
Originally published on Omnigraphics.