Northport VA Medical Center
Ask The Experts-Healthy Living-May
Joanne D. Taylor, PhD is a Clinical Psychologist and the Health Behavior Coordinator for the Northport VAMC.
Mary F. Cavanagh, MD, MPH is a Preventive Medicine and Public Health Physician and the Health Promotion Disease Prevention Program Manager.
Drs. Taylor and Cavanagh work closely with patients and Medical Center staff to promote patient centered care with an emphasis on prevention.
What is the May Healthy Living Message?
Be Physically Active
Key Message: Avoid inactivity. Some activity is better than none. Aim for at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Every 10 minute session counts. Do strengthening activities at least 2 days each week.
Less than half of U.S. adults get the amount of physical activity recommended. All adults should avoid inactivity. Some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits.
Physical activity is safe for almost everyone, and the health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks. If you do not have a chronic condition (such as diabetes, heart disease, or arthritis) and you do not have symptoms (e.g., chest pain or pressure, dizziness, or joint pain) you do not need to talk to a health care provider before you become more active.
If you have a concern regarding a health condition, a conversation with a health care team member about what types of activity are best may be beneficial.
Studies show that regular physical activity decreases the risk for developing depression, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, and some kinds of cancer.
For important health benefits, you should do at least 2½ hours each week of moderate-intensity, or 1¼ hours a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both.
Physical activity is anything that gets the body moving. Start at a comfortable level. Once this begins to seem easy, add a little more activity each time. Then try doing it more often.
Your body is working at a moderate intensity when you can talk but not sing. Moderate-intensity physical activity includes things like walking fast, dancing, and raking leaves.
Your body is working at a vigorous intensity when you cannot say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. Vigorous-intensity physical activity includes things like jogging, jumping rope, swimming laps, or riding a bike uphill.
People of all ages and body types benefit from physical activity. Even if you are out of shape or have not been active in a long time, you can begin activity safely.
Aerobic activity should be in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and it is best to spread these out during the week.
Aerobic activity (also called endurance activity) is when you move your body’s large muscles in a rhythmic manner for a sustained period of time and your heart beats faster than usual.
Muscle strengthening activity causes your body’s muscles to work or hold against an applied force or weight. This includes resistance training and lifting weights. Resistance can be generated using elastic bands, handheld weights or body weight. The effects of muscle-strengthening activity are limited to the muscles doing the work.
Strengthening activities should be performed on at least 2 non-consecutive days each week and should target all the major muscle groups: legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms.
Stretching can produce the following benefits: increased flexibility, improved joint range of motion, improved circulation, and stress relief. How often should a person stretch? Generally, it is best to stretch when engaging in physical activity. For those who are not active on a regular basis, stretching at least three times per week to maintain flexibility is a good starting point.
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: www.health.gov/paguidelines*
- Healthfinder: A Guide to Reliable Health Information on Physical Activity and Other Topics, HHS: www.healthfinder.gov*
- President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN), HHS: www.fitness.gov*
- The President’s Challenge: www.presidentschallenge.org*
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HHS: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity*
- Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, HHS: http://www.odphp.osophs.dhhs.gov*
- Healthfinder: Get Active http://www.healthfinder.gov/prevention/ViewTopic.aspx?topicId=22
*Indicates that the link leads to a non-VA website. The VA is not responsible for the content that is on the site.