Across the spectrum of the human body, irrefutable evidence shows that exercise isn’t just about getting a good workout, it’s also about staying healthy in a much broader sense. Exercise can treat depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances. For your heart, it lowers blood pressure, cholesterol levels, the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Exercise can even reduce the risk of inflammatory bowel disease, and both prevents and treats type 2 diabetes, the most expensive health problem in the United States, with annual costs of over $100 billion.
150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, which the World Health Organisation recommends, is a great goal that’s been shown to reduce the risks of all kinds of diseases and death. However, other data shows that gentler goals can also provide essential health benefits.
One study of more than 250,000 older adults found that even doing some moderate physical activity each week, for less than an hour, was linked to a 15% drop in death rates. In other words, it’s not an all or nothing affair; even minor shifts can help those people who don’t get enough exercise.
Another study found that, when people walk at least 74 minutes a week, they reduce their risk of death by 19% when compared to the most sedentary people.
The standard recommendations from WHO are far too high to motivate the people who need them the most. The central message should be that any type of activity is good for us, It doesn’t matter how we label it, our body sees it the same way. Going for a walk can be just as good as spending an hour gardening or cutting the grass. Movement is movement, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be hard or require you to reorganise your life. Get up 30 minutes earlier and go for a walk if you want to get started. Take the stairs or park a bit further away from your destination. It’s two minutes here and five minutes there, but it all adds up.
As a general goal, try to aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. If you want to lose weight or meet specific fitness goals, you may need to exercise more.
Want to aim even higher? You can achieve more health benefits, including increased weight loss if you ramp up your exercise to 300 minutes a week.
Reducing the time you spend sitting is important too. The more hours you sit each day, the higher your risk of metabolic problems; even if you achieve the recommended amount of daily physical activity. In one study, published by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, women who were experiencing depression were asked to complete 200 minutes of walking a week (or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise). Those who achieved it were found to have improved their mental health, social functioning, physical health, and vitality over time.
There are so many ways to get fitter – resistance training, cardio, yoga, pilates, spin, recreational sports, etc. Find what you like and then be consistent with it because consistency is the key to success. I would even go so far as to say that it doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do, all that matters is that you are consistent with it. Remember, fitness and exercise should add to your life, not take away from it.
Tracking your daily activity using fitness trackers can help you to monitor your daily activity levels. You can also download our free DeepH app which we developed to help people understand their health better.
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