How’s your New Year’s resolution to be more fit coming along anyway? If you’d rather not talk about it, you’re not alone. In fact, a recent study showed that 80 percent of people’s January goals end up by the wayside by February, so it’s easy to infer that even more will be broken by May, especially the fitness ones.
The good news, for clients in Bel Air and beyond plus their caregivers, is that you shouldn’t have to make a major commitment to your fitness: more and more research shows you can actually boost your health dramatically if you focus on achieving at least the minimal amount of exercise.
At Accredited Home Care, we’re always happy to help encourage clients and those around them to get some degree of exercise. We’re firm believers that small amounts can go a long way to making you feel better physically, mentally and emotionally.
So now there’s the big question: what’s the optimal amount of exercise? Is it different for everyone and every age? The good news is that there already is a recommended standard for good health.
The Mayo Clinic and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity ad week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of all of them.
Activities generally considered moderated include walking, hiking, swimming or gardening. More vigorous activities can include running or dancing, generally things that increase the heart rate and use more muscle groups repetitively.
These numbers can be easily broken up into daily amounts – maybe 20-30 minutes every day, or a little more time five or six days a week if you want to rest the other day or days. They can even be divided into smaller amounts, like three 10- or 15-minute opportunities for exercise during a day.
In addition to the 150-minute figure, the DHHS also recommends strength training activities at least twice a week. These are defined as efforts that will tire muscles after at least 10 repetitions using some type of resistance.
Benefits of regular exercise
While saying “it makes you feel better” is an accurate statement, it’s not necessarily as detailed as some people would like.
Luckily, various researchers have looked at the positive benefits to the brain and body of regular exercise. These can include:
- Reduction of pain. People with arthritis have been shown to experience great benefits from regular exercise. This can include more flexibility, better joint function, and less pain. Biking, walking or swimming all are often recommended.
- More activities. The less pain someone is in, or at least if it’s managed well, the more they’ll feel like taking part in more activities that can add to their weekly exercise quota. A recent study of people with arthritis in their knees showed that doing more exercise than the minimum – 56 minutes a day vs. 20-30, can also produce more positive results. People can stay active and independent longer or take part in cruises or other events that they may have avoided before beginning exercise.
- Weight loss. We’re often told that the only way to get significant weight loss is significant exercise. But even a slow but steady effort can yield slow and steady results. Using the same 150 minutes per week metric, some health experts suggest at least 22-35 minutes of moderate activity for moderate weight loss or at least 35 minutes of vigorous activity for more vigorous weight loss. Cutting calories can help the equation. All of these efforts can also help build healthy habits.
- Live longer. This is a risky figure to throw around since mortality is a touchy subject. But a 2017 study showed that trying to follow the 150 minutes per week figure lowered their risk of death by 28 percent, and lowered their risk of heart disease by 20 percent. Those who exercised additional minutes per week lowered their risk of death even further. It also emphasized that physical activity didn’t have to be just ‘gym’ stuff either, but people can get similar exercise from cleaning, walking, gardening or riding their bike to work. It even suggested that micro-activities like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking farther away from the store instead of the closest spot you can find.
The easiest place to start is to get out there and start getting physical. Even if you don’t belong to a gym or health program, you can likely find places in your community to have a brisk walk. If there’s nothing suitable outdoors, or there’s hot or cold weather, consider a mall or grocery store.
Physicians and health care providers can also have a role in giving recommendations or “prescriptions for better health.” The CDC has shown that patients who have providers who give thorough information on the benefits of exercise, pain-relief options, and local resources can have improved quality of life.
The team at Accredited Home Care may have further suggestions on ways to incorporate more exercise and enjoy the benefits.