You don’t have to knock yourself out to keep yourself healthy
Unfortunately, there is an epidemic of physical inactivity in the U.K. today. If this continues there will be a time bomb of ill health just waiting to go off. If it explodes it could devastate the economy and destroy the NHS.
Once a person gets out of the habit of being physical it is very difficult to start up again. Bad habits are much harder to change than good ones.
The reason for this is more physiological than physical. Just the thought of exercise to a long time sedentary person will make them break out into a sweat. They imagine burning lungs, pounding heart, feelings of nausea and painful muscles.
However, new research is proving that we need to change our ideas about physical activity.
Now for the good news. Modest, enjoyable physical activity will benefit both body and mind and does not have to be torture to be beneficial.
The research carried out by the US Centres of Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with the highly respected American College of Sports Medicine conclude that ‘accumulating 30 minutes or more of moderate intensity physical activity on most but preferably all days of the week will improve health overall’.
The interesting part of that sentence is the word accumulating. It has been found that short burst of activity can have the same effect as prolong workouts as long as it all adds up to 30 minutes or more in the day. It does not have to be a specific exercise. Normal daily activities like walking to the shops or climbing a flight of stairs also count towards your 30-minute daily total.
Further research also indicates that not only is modest activity better than non but accumulated exercise can have the same benefits as sustained vigorous activities such as aerobics or rowing. Short burst activity appears to actually have a greater effect on boosting the ratio of good cholesterol to bad.
Men who take just small light to moderate activity will lower their risk of heart attacks and death compared to their sedentary counterparts. In fact one study has shown that men who take 30 minutes of moderate exercise were as protected from fatal heart attacks as those who exercised three times as much. Walking a mile a day can cut your risk of stroke by 30%, more than a mile and that rises to 50%.
It is important for sedentary people to know that every bit of activity counts-no matter how small. Standing instead of sitting can burn off up to 20 calories an hour. That’s a pound a year if you stand instead of sit for one hour a day. If you move around a bit while you are standing, you’ll get more benefit.
What you do achieve with a vigorous exercise is all the benefits and more but in a shorter time. You get will also develop a muscular, sleeker physique, which comes naturally with high intensity training. But don’t think you have to do this to improve mental and physical health.
So remember this
a) It doesn’t matter how brief your periods of activity are—the benefits are cumulative. It’s the total amount of activity that counts, not the manner in which you do it.
b) Physically active people, on average, outlive inactive people at any age. The greatest gains in health come to those who advance from outright couch potatoes to moderately active people.