Everyone knows that exercise is good for us but the debate of how much exercise we actually need is ongoing. There’s those hard bodies that hit the gym every day religiously for two hours, while others believe that as long as you get in a nice swift twenty minute walk a few days a week you’ll be fine. What does the evidence prove?
According to the American Heart Association, duration of exercise depends greatly on intensity and type of exercise. If you are exercising harder you need less time but their lowest recommendation is 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise five days a week. Keep in mind that this is the lowest recommendation and will result in the least benefit. Increasing the duration of your exercises will increase the benefits you will reap.
Here’s just some of the benefits of exercise according to the latest scientific studies:
- You Live Longer – A study done by a Dr. Qi Sun on over 13000 women nurses proved that all that applied a regular physical activity to their weekly routine helped them to age with much reduced chance of chronic illness and actually live longer. Even if we are feeling the effects of age now, we can greatly increase our quality of life in the future if we get physical now.
- Fight Cancer – Numerous studies have proven that regular physical activity, especially of moderate intensity, reduces that risk of colon and breast cancer by over 30% and 20% respectively. It is thought that physical exercise helps keep the intestines working at peak performance and emptying fully, which explains why colon cancer would be prevented. Also, physical activity might prevent breast cancer due to the reduction in growth factor similar to insulin. Not only that but the study also showed that after development of these cancers, physical exercise helped reduce the risk of death by these cancers and reduced recurrence rates. As rampant as cancer is today, any way that we can protect ourselves is a warranted effort.
- Bone Health – Regular exercise, specifically strength training has been proven to increase bone density to fight against osteoporosis and poor bone health. As we age, our bones weaken and we can have falls resulting in major bone damage. Keeping up with our regular physical exercise can help us prevent this by not only having stronger bones that resist breakage but also stronger muscles that will help us keep our balance.
- Heart Health – Obviously since the American Heart Association recommends daily physical exercise, it is good for your heart. In a study done on female nurses proved that walking an hour a day reduced their risk of stoke by 40%. That’s almost cut in half! Regular physical exercise also lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Fights Diabetes – Again, those poor female nurses were studied and found that those who did not participate in regular physical activity were twice as likely to develop diabetes as those that did. Also, physical exercise was proven more effective than a popular diabetes drug at preventing progression in those who had beginning signs of diabetes.
- Brain Health – Physical exercise helps not just the body but also the brain. A study done on people who were complaining of memory loss showed that they saw great improvement when they began to participate in regular physical fitness. Alzheimer’s is a sad disease that effects not just the one suffering from it but also their family and friends. Your chances of having this debilitating disease when you age can be greatly diminished by following a strong fitness regimen.
Five hours of exercise may seem like a lot to work in each week but the benefits can be immeasurable! So let’s explore how you could get this done, it could be easier than you think!
Also, you could be getting more exercise each week than you think, as recent research indicates that “everything counts”. See our post on that subject here. Maybe you are one of those people that hate the monotonous routine of strength and aerobics and doing this for an hour sounds worse to you than a bullet in your head. But remember, HOW you get the 5 hours of exercise is totally up to you. You get to find something that really makes your heart sing. You don’t have to drag yourself to the gym and do what everybody else does. There are many ways to be active that don’t involve a treadmill or a dumbbell.
- Walking or jogging. If you ever thought that walking was just for “old people,” nope. The benefits of walking are huge, and it’s an easy exercise anybody can do. And can be as easy as taking your dog for a longer walk than normal. And once you’re up to it, why not pick up the pace and do a little jogging? It will elevate your heart rate, get you some fresh air, and make you feel great. While you’re at it, try to go to a scenic trail or run around a local lake, it will do your mind and body good!
- Yoga. This time tested exercise method is great for both men and women, old and young. And don’t assume you won’t get a good workout… or that you have to join a Yoga studio and pay big bucks. Of course do that if you can afford it and there’s one nearby, but did you know there are TONS of great Yoga videos on Youtube, absolutely free? Yup, here’s one very popular example of a Yoga channel with lots of great videos that vary in time and difficulty: https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene.
- CrossFit! You’ve seen those crazy good athletes on TV… but did you know that CrossFit can be scaled to work for just about anybody? A woman at my gym is trying to lose 150 pounds… and succeeding! But a lot of people just don’t think they can do CrossFit is they aren’t already in shape. Not so. A good coach will help scale any CrossFit activity to your ability level, and over time, chances are you will surprise yourself at just how fit you get!
- Dancing! You don’t have to be good at it, just enjoy it! Whether you are into square dancing, hip hop, salsa, or free-styling, dancing is a great way to be active. Crank up the tunes, put on your dancing shoes and boogie until you start to sweat! You can make it as professional as you want by enrolling in ballroom dance classes or you can just go to the club and dance to your favorite songs. As long as you are enjoying yourself, you won’t feel like you’re working out, just having good old fashioned fun!
- Do some intentional playing with the kids or grand kids. Children have an endless supply of energy, or at least that is what it feels like when you are trying to keep up with them! Getting in some play time with the kiddos will definitely get your heart pumping. Try to play a game of tag, Frisbee, jump rope, whatever they are busy with at that moment. Kids don’t stay still for too long. Not only will you definitely get in your daily hour of exercise but you will connect with your children, plus it is one of the best ways to let go of your anxieties and remember what it feels like to be a kid again.
- Join a team. If you are a social butterfly, you will thrive in an environment that involves other people. Joining a team sport or even just having a workout partner will help you to look forward to your exercise time. It can be a local flag football team or ultimate Frisbee. There are many different options out there if you just look for them. The best thing about these teams is accountability. The whole team is counting on you showing up and you usually have to pay a small fee to join. These are two reasons not to skip out on your exercises.
- Martial arts. This type of exercise involves discipline, focus, and inner calm. There are many different kinds of martial arts. Chances are you can find a methodology close to you that you will really enjoy.
- Geocaching. This combines the exercise of a hike with the fun of a scavenger hunt. It isn’t the most intense workout, but you can easily walk miles in a day going from cache to cache in a GPS directed hunt.
- Shake up your normal gym routine. If you’re already attending a gym, but doing the same old same old, why not consider hiring one of the trainers, or doing the spin class, or any of the other classes offered? By shaking things up, you can often get out of a physical rut.
- Go virtual! We live in a technologically advanced time. There is a virtual everything these days, from pets to babies. Why not take advantage of that and allow the virtual world to help you stay active. You can always use the Wii Fit console to help you play a game of tennis, golf, and go snowboarding all without leaving your home. You can even download an app on your tablet or phone that will have you running along a virtual trail in France if you so choose. Need more motivation to run? How about running away from man eating zombies? There’s an app for that.
Of course, this is a tiny list, there are hundreds of ways to exercise in a fun and interesting way, no matter what your age, gender, or physical ability. Don’t let excuses get in the way or allow yourself to be your own worst enemy. You deserve to be healthy! Find what works for you and have fun with it!