Benefits Of Regular Physical Activity

“A mixture of physical activity, enjoyment, laughter and fun is crucial in creating a healthy lifestyle.” -Ricardo Housham

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According to me, all of us want to live a healthy lifestyle by indulging ourselves in some physical activity. We do not live a lifestyle which is bad for our health intentionally, but there are many factors that lead us to living a sedentary lifestyle.

Sedentary lifestyle is a common bad habit that results in ill health.

(Read more about lifestyle and it’s negative impact on health here.)

Therefore, we all must try to beat all the factors that make us live a bad lifestyle and engage ourselves in some physical activity of our choice. It could be anything like playing your favorite sport, running, swimming, dancing, cycling, yoga etc.

Donating a few minutes out of 24 hours to your body won’t disturb your schedule. I’m sure! So, let’s start using our precious time wisely!

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The benefits of exercise extend far beyond weight management. Research shows that regular physical activity can help reduce your risk for several diseases and health conditions and improve your overall quality of life.

Regular physical activity can help protect you from the following health problems :-

  • Heart Disease and Stroke- Daily physical activity can help prevent heart disease and stroke by strengthening your heart muscle, lowering your blood pressure, raising your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels (good cholesterol) and lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels (bad cholesterol), improving blood flow, and increasing your heart’s working capacity. Optimizing each of these factors can provide additional benefits of decreasing the risk for Peripheral Vascular Disease.
  • High Blood Pressure- Regular physical activity can reduce blood pressure in people with high blood pressure levels. Physical activity reduces body fat, which is associated with high blood pressure.
  • Non insulin-Dependent Diabetes– By reducing body fat, physical activity can help to prevent and control this type of diabetes.
  • Obesity- Physical activity helps to reduce body fat by building or preserving muscle mass and improving the body’s ability to use calories. When physical activity is combined with proper nutrition, it can help control weight and prevent obesity, a major risk factor for many diseases. Physical activity also increases Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).
  • Back Pain- By increasing muscle strength and endurance and improving flexibility and posture, regular exercise helps to prevent back pain.
  • Osteoporosis- Regular weight-bearing exercise promotes bone formation and may prevent many forms of bone loss associated with aging.
  • Disability- Running and aerobic exercise have been shown to postpone the development of disability in older adults.
  • Cancer- There is convincing evidence that physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of cancers of the colon and breast. Several studies also have reported links between physical activity and a reduced risk of cancers of the prostate, lung, and lining of the uterus (endometrial cancer).

Strengthen Your Bones and Muscles

  • As you age, it’s important to protect your bones, joints and muscles. Not only do they support your body and help you move, but keeping bones, joints and muscles healthy can help ensure that you’re able to do your daily activities and be physically active. Research shows that doing physical activity of at least a moderately-intense level can slow the loss of bone density that comes with age.
  • Hip fracture is a serious health condition that can have life-changing negative effects, especially if you’re an older adult. But research shows that people who do 120 to 300 minutes of at least moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week have a lower risk of hip fracture.
  • Regular physical activity helps with arthritis and other conditions affecting the joints. If you have arthritis, research shows that doing 130 to 150 (2 hours and 10 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, low-impact aerobic activity can not only improve your ability to manage pain and do everyday tasks, but it can also make your quality of life better.

Improves Lung Function

When done regularly, physical activity strengthens your heart muscle. This improves your heart’s ability to pump blood to your lungs and throughout your body. As a result, more blood flows to your muscles, and oxygen levels in your blood rise.

Capillaries, your body’s tiny blood vessels, also widen. This allows them to deliver more oxygen to your body and carry away waste products.

Self Esteem And Stress Management

  • Studies on the psychological effects of exercise have found that regular physical activity can improve your mood and the way you feel about yourself. Researchers have found that exercise is likely to reduce depression and anxiety and help you to better manage stress.

Improve Your Mental Health and Mood

  • Regular physical activity can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age.

Keep these health benefits in mind when deciding whether or not to exercise.

Global recommendations on physical activity for health by WHO

WHO developed the “Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health” with the overall aim of providing national and regional level policy makers with guidance on the dose-response relationship between the frequency, duration, intensity, type and total amount of physical activity needed for the prevention of Non-communicable Heart Diseases (NCDs).

The recommendations set out in this document address three age groups: 5–17 years old; 18–64 years old; and 65 years old and above.

Recommended levels of physical activity for children aged 5 – 17 years

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For children and young people, physical activity includes play, games, sports, transportation, chores, recreation, physical education, or planned exercise, in the context of family, school, and community activities.

In order to improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone health, and cardiovascular and metabolic health biomarkers:

  • Children and youth aged 5–17 should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.
  • Amounts of physical activity greater than 60 minutes provide additional health benefits.
  • Most of the daily physical activity should be aerobic. Vigorous-intensity activities should be incorporated, including those that strengthen muscle and bone*, at least 3 times per week.

*For this age group, bone-loading activities can be performed as part of playing games, running, turning or jumping.

Physical activity for all

These recommendations are relevant to all healthy children aged 5–17 years unless specific medical conditions indicate to the contrary.

The concept of accumulation refers to meeting the goal of 60 minutes per day by performing activities in multiple shorter bouts spread throughout the day (e.g. 2 bouts of 30 minutes), then adding together the time spent during each of these bouts.

Whenever possible, children and youth with disabilities should meet these recommendations. However they should work with their health care provider to understand the types and amounts of physical activity appropriate for them considering their disability.

These recommendations are applicable for all children and youth irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity, or income level.

For inactive children and youth, a progressive increase in activity to eventually achieve the target shown above is recommended. It is appropriate to start with smaller amounts of physical activity and gradually increase duration, frequency and intensity over time. It should also be noted that if children are currently doing no physical activity, doing amounts below the recommended levels will bring more benefits than doing none at all.

Recommended levels of physical activity for adults aged 18 – 64 years

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In adults aged 18–64, physical activity includes leisure time physical activity (for example: walking, dancing, gardening, hiking, swimming), transportation (e.g. walking or cycling), occupational (i.e. work), household chores, play, games, sports or planned exercise, in the context of daily, family, and community activities. In order to improve cardio-respiratory and muscular fitness, bone health, reduce the risk of NCDs and depression:

  • Adults aged 18–64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
  • Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration.
  • For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.

Physical activity for all

These recommendations are relevant to all healthy adults aged 18–64 years unless specific medical conditions indicate to the contrary. They are applicable for all adults irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity or income level. They also apply to individuals in this age range with chronic noncommunicable conditions not related to mobility such as hypertension or diabetes.

These recommendations can be valid for adults with disabilities. However adjustments for each individual based on their exercise capacity and specific health risks or limitations may be needed.

There are multiple ways of accumulating the total of 150 minutes per week. The concept of accumulation refers to meeting the goal of 150 minutes per week by performing activities in multiple shorter bouts, of at least 10 minutes each, spread throughout the week then adding together the time spent during each of these bouts: e.g. 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity 5 times per week.

Pregnant, postpartum women and persons with cardiac events may need to take extra precautions and seek medical advice before striving to achieve the recommended levels of physical activity for this age group.

Inactive adults or adults with disease limitations will have added health benefits if moving from the category of “no activity” to “some levels” of activity. Adults who currently do not meet the recommendations for physical activity should aim to increase duration, frequency and finally intensity as a target to achieving them.

Recommended levels of physical activity for adults aged 65 and above

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In adults aged 65 years and above, physical activity includes leisure time physical activity (for example: walking, dancing, gardening, hiking, swimming), transportation (e.g. walking or cycling), occupational (if the individual is still engaged in work), household chores, play, games, sports or planned exercise, in the context of daily, family, and community activities.

In order to improve cardio-respiratory health and muscular fitness, bone and functional health, reduce the risk of NCDs, depression and cognitive decline:

  • Older adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.
  • Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration.
  • For additional health benefits, older adults should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate-and vigorous-intensity activity.
  • Older adults, with poor mobility, should perform physical activity to enhance balance and prevent falls on 3 or more days per week.
  • Muscle-strengthening activities, involving major muscle groups, should be done on 2 or more days a week.
  • When older adults cannot do the recommended amounts of physical activity due to health conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.

Physical activity for all

These guidelines are relevant to all healthy adults aged 65 years and above. They are also relevant to individuals in this age range with chronic NCD conditions. Individuals with specific health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, may need to take extra precautions and seek medical advice before striving to achieve the recommended levels of physical activity for older adults.

There are a number of ways older adults can accumulate the total of 150 minutes per week. The concept of accumulation refers to meeting the goal of 150 minutes per week by performing activities in multiple shorter bouts, of at least 10 minutes each, spread throughout the week then adding together the time spent during each of these bouts: e.g. 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity 5 times per week.

These recommendations are applicable for all older adults irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity or income level.

The recommendations can be applied to older adults with disabilities however adjustments for each individual based on their exercise capacity and specific health risks or limitations may be needed.

Older adults who are inactive or who have some disease limitations will have added health benefits if moving from the category of “no activity” to “some levels” of activity. Older adults who currently do not meet the recommendations for physical activity should aim to increase duration, frequency and finally intensity as a target to achieving them.

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