Have you gotten your 30 minutes of physical activity yet today? Well, you better get moving as it’s National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. Whether physical activity is already a part of your lifestyle, or is something that ‘you’ll get around to’ when you have more time, the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN) designates the month of May to remind all Americans that creating physically active lifestyles and participating in favorite sports should be a top priority for us all. If you’re one of the ‘I’ll get around to it’ individuals, use this month to set new goals to start getting fit and active. These new habits will have a positive effect on you now as well as for the rest of your life.
According to the PCFSN, less than five percent of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day, and only one in three adults receive the recommended amount of activity each week. Kids are more physically active than adults with the help of physical education classes and recess; yet only 33 percent are getting active every day.
What is the recommended amount? The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (PAG) (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS]) recommends that adults get at least 150 of moderately to vigorously intense minutes each week that can be spread out over five days in 30-minute increments. If you can’t carve out 30 minutes at a time, don’t use that as an excuse to not find ways to move more even if it’s just 10 minutes at a time. That’s pretty doable for most of us. The HHS also recommends that we infuse muscle-strengthening exercises into our workouts on two or more of those days.
|If you choose activities at a moderate level, do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes a week.
If you choose vigorous activities, do at least 1 hour and 15 minutes a week.
|Slowly build up the amount of time you do physical activities. The more time you spend, the more health benefits you gain. Aim for twice the amount of activity in the box at left.
Do at least 10 minutes at a time. You can combine moderate and vigorous activities.
|Muscle Strengthening Activities||Do these at least 2 days a week.||Include all the major muscle groups such as legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms.
Exercises for each muscle group should be repeated 8 to 12 times per session.
Youth need 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. As with adults, these minutes should be spent doing activities that are moderately to vigorously intense and can be divided into several periods that add up to at least one hour each day. Kids also need age-appropriate muscle- and bone–strengthening activities in addition to aerobic activity.
But, does the thought of going to the gym leave you feeling intimidated or turned off because you think everyone there is like Hans and Franz? No worries—no need to even go to the gym! Just pick an activity below that’s fun and easy to fit into your life. Do these for 10 minutes or more at a time.
(I can talk while I do them, but I can’t sing.)
- Ballroom and line dancing
- Biking on level ground or with few hills
- General gardening (raking, trimming shrubs)
- Sports where you catch and throw (baseball, softball, volleyball)
- Tennis (doubles)
- Using your manual wheelchair
- Using hand cyclers—also called ergometers
- Walking briskly
- Water aerobics
(I can only say a few words without stopping to catch my breath.)
- Aerobic dance
- Biking faster than 10 miles per hour
- Fast dancing
- Heavy gardening (digging, hoeing)
- Hiking uphill
- Jumping rope
- Martial arts (such as karate)
- Race walking, jogging, or running
- Sports with a lot of running (basketball, hockey, soccer)
- Swimming fast or swimming laps
- Tennis (singles)
Physical activity shouldn’t be drudgery. Once you find several activities that you like, you’ll probably do them out of sheer enjoyment. And, the following benefits on your physical health will just be a bonus:
Adults: reduces risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and obesity
Older adults: lowers risk of falls
Children and adolescents: improves muscular fitness, bone and heart health
All: helps maintain a healthy weight
But, the benefits don’t end there. Physical activity also promotes mental/emotional health by: reducing anxiety and depression; lifting spirits; providing an opportunity to connect with others; and giving a new outlook on a problem or project.
But, wait, there’s more! Cognitive health benefits abound as well for both kids and adults alike. Research shows that exercise is positively correlated with students’ academic achievement, increased attention spans and engagement. It also helps reduce behavioral issues and absenteeism. And, by infusing brief bouts of physical activity into classroom lessons, kids will become more alert and engaged in their learning processes, and it will help them retain what they are learning. More research studies are underway, but there is no denying this fact: if there is anything close to that of “magic bullet status” in contributing to the solution of our kids’ academic and health woes, it is physical activity/aerobic exercise. Renowned Harvard professor of psychiatry, John Ratey, author of SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, likens exercise to “Miracle Gro” for the brain. And, it doesn’t just work on children—adults and seniors’ learning and judgment skills will begin to “grow” as well.
So, let’s generate a list of creative ways for all of us to move every single day while aiming for the recommended amounts of daily/weekly minutes. Remember that changing activities is good for the body because it targets different muscles, stimulates your brain and staves off boredom.
- Give children toys that encourage physical activity like balls, kites and jump ropes.
- Encourage children to join a sports team or try a new physical activity.
- Limit TV time and keep the TV out of a child’s bedroom.
- Facilitate a safe walk to and from school a few times a week.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Walk around the block or take a bike ride after a meal.
- Make a new house rule: no sitting still during television commercials.
- Find time to spend together doing a fun activity: family park day, swim day or bike day.
- Issue a family challenge to see who can be the first to achieve a Presidential Active Lifestyle Award by committing to physical activity five days a week, for six weeks.
- Be sure that children get the recommended amounts of sleep for their age.
- Do household chores.
- Work in your garden.
- Bike to work or to run errands.
- Walk your dog.
- Walk with a friend at lunch.
You might not be able to commit as much time to being physically active as you like at times. But, remember, any physical activity is beneficial and it should pump (clap) you up!