By: Cassidy Hobbs
NC Cooperative Extension
You might think it’s odd that I am suggesting that you gain this season, but I am not talking about gaining weight. I want you to gain physical activity! Fitting in physical activity doesn’t have to be a daunting task, and staying active reaps many benefits.
Physical activity is bodily movement that requires energy expenditure. In other words, physical activity is moving your body and using energy. Regular physical activity helps to control your weight. Weight loss programs that incorporate physical activity are more effective and more successful at keeping weight off than programs that only reduce calorie intake. Physical activity lowers your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and reduces your risk of some cancers. Physical activity helps strengthen bones and muscles therefore protecting against osteoporosis, improving daily function, and preventing falls as we age. Physical activity has been shown to increase mood, relieve feelings of depression, protect against memory loss, increase energy, and increase your chances of living longer. Research has shown physical activity aids in pain management as well as helps you sleep better.
It is recommended that adults participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week or at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week- or even a mixture of both. That may seem like a lot, but it does not have to be done all at once! Break up the time into 30 minutes per day for five days, try 10 minutes three times per day, or whatever works for you. Moderate physical activity is physical activity you perform that increases your heart rate and breathing. You will feel like you can talk while you are performing the activity, but you will not be able to sing. Examples of moderate physical activity are walking briskly, raking leaves, pulling weeds, line dancing, ballroom dancing, playing softball, or biking on a flat road. Vigorous activities are activities that you have to worker harder to do, breathing more heavily, and you are likely not able to talk during the activity without having to stop to catch your breath. Examples of vigorous physical activities are heavy gardening such as hoeing or digging, performing Zumba or cardio dance, swimming laps, walking uphill, biking faster than 10 mph, jogging, or performing sports with lots of running such as basketball or soccer.
If increasing physical activity is a new goal you want to pursue, start small. Don’t park so close to the entrance at work, park farther away from the door at the grocery store, push your cart back to where it belongs when you finish, take a few walking breaks at work, use the restroom or printer that is farther from your desk, walk on your lunch break, and include your family. Play with the kids or grandkids before or after dinner. Turn off the television to play with the dog as a family. When you choose to watch television, use commercial breaks as a time to walk around the house or do housework that requires moving.
Physical activity doesn’t just mean running or going to the gym. Find something you enjoy and you will be more likely to stick with it. Physical activity can be done anywhere. One community member told me that she walks around stores for two hours every morning for exercise if it is too cold or rainy to walk around her neighborhood. My mom and I went shopping this past weekend, and I reached my goal of 10,000 steps by that afternoon- physical activity for the day, check! Remember, the recommended amount of physical activity doesn’t have to be done all at once, and it doesn’t have to take place in a gym.