Last updated: May 17, 2019
The Importance of Physical Activity
Here are some of the good things that physical activity will do for you:
- Help control your weight
- Help lower your blood pressure and blood cholesterol
- Improve your circulation
- Reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes (adult onset
- Reduce your risk of some cancers
- Keep your bones and muscles healthy and reduce the
risk of falls
- Help you live longer
- Relieve stress
- Lift your mood
- Sleep better
- Improve your posture so that you look your best
Who Is At Risk?
A recent survey found that 64% of County residents are overweight. The average adult watches 3 hours of television a day and 25% of residents get no exercise in an average week. Those who watched more television ate a higher fat diet with fewer fruits and vegetables. Overweight, physical inactivity and a diet high in fat increased the risk of heart disease and cancer.
More and more children are becoming overweight. In fact, the number of overweight children has tripled in the last 30 years. The Anne Arundel County Department of Health recently did a study on the problem, and the results were similar to those in national studies. The study found that 15.6% of children ages 2 to 19 are overweight and another 16.9% are at risk of being overweight. One reason may be that kids spend more time playing video games, using the computer and watching television. The school day has become less active too. Recess time has been cut and gym classes meet only twice a week in elementary school.
Physical activity becomes even more important as you grow older. Americans aged 65 and older are the least active age group in the United States: approximately 35% of those aged 65 to 74 years report no leisure-time physical activity at all. Research has shown that seniors who have healthy lifestyles that include regular physical activity reduce their risk for chronic diseases and of disability. Another recent study found that women who walked more than 4 hours per week (no other exercise) were 41% less likely to break a hip than those who walked less than an hour a week.
What is Fitness?
The word “fitness” refers to your overall health. When you are fit you have:
- Energy to do what you want to do
- Reduced risk of health problems
- The chance to look and feel your best
- Strength and endurance for an emergency
What is Physical Activity?
Physical activity is anything that gets you moving at
a moderate pace (equal to a brisk walk). Other examples are using the stairs, housework, yard work, bike riding, hiking, recreational sports or dancing. Physical fitness is your ability to perform physical activity. The more you move, the more you improve.
- For health benefits, physical activity should be moderate or vigorous intensity. Click here.
- Make physical activity a regular part of the day at home, at work, and at play. Click here.
What is Exercise?
Exercise refers to a planned program of physical activity that includes repetitive motion, for example: an aerobics class, stair climbing machine, jogging or weight training. There are three types of exercise:
- Aerobic exercise: Aerobic activities like walking, running and jogging make you breathe harder and your heart beat faster. They help your heart stay healthy.
- Strength building exercise: Strength building activities, such as exercising with light weights, help build muscle.
- Stretching exercises: These exercises, such as flexing and extending your legs while walking, help stretch
out muscles that have tightened with exercise.
In any program, it is best to have some of each kind of exercise.
How Much Do I Need?
According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults need at least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (e.g., brisk walking) every week. On 2 or more days a week, adults need muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). Start slowly – 10 minutes at a time is fine. You don’t have to do it all at once!
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans also recommends that children and adolescents should do 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. Encourage your child to participate in activities that are age-appropriate, enjoyable and offer variety! Just make sure your child or adolescent is doing three types of physical activity:
- Aerobic Activity, such as brisk walking, should make up most of your child’s 60 minutes per day
- Muscle Strengthening, such as gymnastics or push-ups, at least 3 days per week
- Bone Strengthening, such as jumping rope or running, at least 3 days per week
Stick with it! Picking enjoyable physical activities that match your abilities will help you stick with them. If you are not sure where to start, use the example below.
For more information on the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, click here.