Step It Up – Making Physical Activity a Priority, an article written by Chris Zellers, FCHS Educator/Asst. Professor was published in the newspaper on April 26, 2023.
Since Americans have become progressively more sedentary chronic disease rates have increased demonstrating the importance of regular movement to keep bodies functioning properly. There are obviously health benefits to moving more at any age and disease prevention through regular movement starts in childhood and continues as we age. That’s not to say it’s too late to start exercising if you haven’t been moving all your life because moving now will have benefits. Physical activity done safely and appropriately helps maintain a healthy weight which could reduce the incidents of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to improve mood and create a sense of wellbeing while reducing the incidence of some brain related diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and can even prevent other degenerative brain diseases. Regular movement is associated with a better night’s sleep too and can assist with decreasing sleep apnea. So, if exercise is so good for us why aren’t Americans moving enough?
The USDA recommends that adults exercise for a minimum of 150 minutes per week with plus two days that include weight bearing exercise and children should be active for 60 minutes per day. Despite these recommendations the CDC says only 46.9% of adults meet the recommendations for aerobic physical activity and only 24.2% meet both aerobic and muscle strengthening recommendations. A combination of muscle strengthening, and aerobic exercise is important to ensure all parts of the body are strong and support healthy aging. Plan regular exercise by mapping out the type and amount of movement you will do each day and to prevent excuses not to move.
To avoid excuses that derail your movement plan, examine what excuses you might be giving yourself not to move and replace those barriers with physical activity. A common reason people say they don’t move is they are too tired, this may be true, however exercise can increase energy levels so before you lay down on the sofa lace up those sneakers and go for a walk. The fresh air and movement will give you more energy to keep moving. Cost is also a reason why people say they don’t exercise but it can be totally free. Walking is free and easy to do anywhere, find an activity that doesn’t cost anything to start a workout regimen. Many health care plans have started reimbursing members for working out, check with your healthcare plan to see if you have this benefit. Not enough time is a very valid reason but taking time now to exercise can reduce stress and anxiety to make you more productive throughout your day. Find ways to sneak in movement while doing something else, like watching a youth soccer game, walk the sidelines while enjoying the game. Motivation to get and keep moving is hard but think about the health benefits exercise provides now and in the future. Finding a friend who is a good source of motivation can be helpful too, or thinking about how great you feel while moving. If you are bored when moving then change it up, doing things you enjoy will keep you moving more, variety is key to overcome boredom when exercising. Some folks feel they are not physically able to move but there are exercises that can be done while sitting that will be a great starting point and can make movement more accessible for all. Finally, some people are embarrassed to be seen moving in public, if that’s the case then start out at home doing something that makes you feel energized. Just like setting up a weekly menu can assist with eating healthy so can a weekly movement plan. Make a plan to move and then address excuses by realizing that exercise is critical for disease prevention and living well.