Exercise and Your Heart
Over the last several years, you’ve managed to fit a brisk 1/2 hr walk into your schedule on most days. The payback is you feel better, and friends say you look better too!
Of course, getting into the habit of walking each day was the biggest hurdle, but now you look forward to your daily excursion. It feels perfect.
But a recent National Academy of Sciences report has you wondering if you’re doing enough.
Taking into consideration the expanding girth of many North Americans, the academy is recommending that people get at least 60 mins of moderate activity on a daily basis.
So does this mean your 1/2 hr walk isn’t enough?
The answer depends on your current health condition and your fitness goals.
The Surgeon General’s 1996 report recommended accumulating at least 30 mins of moderately intense activity on most or all days of the week.
During activities of moderate-intensity, your breathing should allow you to carry on a conversation, but with some effort.
Behind the recommendation was considerable data demonstrating the many benefits of staying physically active. These include helping:
· Reduce the risk of premature heath, particularly from cardiovascular disease
· Reduce the risk of developing diabetes & colon cancer
· Reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure or reduce already elevated blood pressure
· Promote psychological well-being & reduce depression & anxiety
· Control weight
· Build & maintain healthy muscles, bones & joints
· Improve the strength of older adults & their ability to move without falling
Then came to another alarm from the Surgeon General in 2001–excess weight & obesity in the U.S had reached epidemic proportions.
Among adults, 61% were overweight or obese. Excess weight is closely associated with the risk of numerous health problems including diabetes, cardiovascular disease & joint problems.
Managing your weight involves not only your diet but also how much & how intensely you exercise.
If you lead a sedentary lifestyle your body is less efficient & when you do perform the occasional exercise, your body burns easily accessible carbohydrates rather than stored fat.
However, the more regularly you exercise over time – for instance, as you work up to a 20-30 mins period on most days & stick with this for 6 mths – the more your body will start to shift in favor of burning fat over carbohydrates.
Essentially, your body adapts to regular exercise and becomes more efficient.
What are your goals? The new recommendations of 60 mins of moderate activity each day may seem daunting, even discouraging. Don’t be, evaluate your goals…
If weight loss isn’t an issue for you, there are still health benefits associated with the 1/2 hr of activity on most or all days of the week.
Do something you enjoy that involved moving the large muscles in your hips and legs.
And if you can’t sustain a moderate activity level for 30 mins straight, break down your activity into 10- or 15- min chunks of time.
For instance, try taking a brisk 10 min walk in the morning and doing the same in the afternoon and the evening (total of 30 mins of activity) – but avoid moderate or higher-intensity exercise for at least an hour after a substantial meal.
Recent studies show that if you’re at a fitness level where you can increase the intensity of your exercise safely, doing so may help you further reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
However, if your goal is to lose weight, try gradually increasing the amount of time you exercise or are physically active. Doing so increases the potential for fat loss.
If weight loss is your goal but you’ve been inactive, don’t expect to do an hour a day of moderate activity right away.
Gradually build up your activity level over weeks and months with the goal of reaching 30 mins/day – that 1/2 hr nets you important health benefits.
For the weight loss aspect, gradually add time. You may want to vary your activities and break them into 15 to 20 mins periods throughout the day that eventually adds up to 60 mins per day