It is now estimated that 60 percent of adult Americans are not physically active on a regular basis. Even more disturbing, one in four Americans is not active at all. Recent findings confirm that fitness is a better predictor of health and longevity than almost any factor studied. Here is what the research has shown:
- Becoming fit has a similar effect to stopping smoking in lowering the risk of death.
- Lack of fitness is more significant than smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels as a risk factor for heart disease and premature death.
- Even those who are moderately active on a regular basis have lower mortality rates than those who are the least active.
- Regular physical activity prevents or delays the development of high blood pressure and improves cholesterol levels. At the same time, it has been shown to reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension.
- Regular physical activity is associated with a decreased risk of colon cancer and type 2 diabetes.
- Physical activity is one of the most consistent and positive factors in successful weight management. Weight gain is less likely with increased activity.
- Physical activity appears to relieve the symptoms of depression and anxiety, improving mood and enhancing the ability to perform daily tasks.
- Increasing evidence now suggests that light to moderate activity — below the level recommended for cardiovascular fitness — can result in some measurable health improvements, including a reduced risk of heart disease. Furthermore, new research has found that intermittent physical activity increases caloric expenditure and is a viable option for those who cannot fit 30 minutes of sustained activity into their schedules.
So what do you do with this knowledge? How can you become more fit in order to enjoy these valuable benefits? Start moving!
You can increase your physical activity in a number of ways:
- Reduce the amount of time you are sitting, whether it is in front of the television, at the computer, at the kitchen table or anywhere else. If you were to add up how many hours you spend sitting, you would probably be surprised — and perhaps alarmed — at just how sedentary you are. Replace that time with exercise: housework, active play, etc.
- Be creative with finding hidden ways of being active. For instance, park farther away from the shopping center; take the stairs instead of the escalator; take breaks at work to walk or stretch rather than just sit around; walk your dog around the neighborhood instead of keeping it in the backyard.
- Get the whole family involved by scheduling recreation time together. Plan a bike ride, an evening walk, a volleyball game, or a romp around the playground.
Even though intermittent activity is beneficial, structured exercise performed on a regular basis offers even greater advantages. Adopt an exercise plan that allows you to perform cardiovascular activity (brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming, etc.) for at least 20 minutes per session, at least three times per week. End each session with a series of stretches for the entire body. If possible, incorporate a muscular fitness routine to maximize your overall fitness level.
Make fitness a personal priority for you and your family!