The positive health benefits associated with physical activity are many and studies have shown that physical inactivity leads to an increased risk of chronic diseases, disability and premature death. Leading a physically active lifestyle does not have to mean running a marathon every year or becoming the national triathlon champion. Ideas for becoming more active can be as simple as taking the stairs rather than the elevator, and walking rather than driving to the mailbox. Integrating these, or similar activities to your daily routine will help you become more active.
The Benefits of Physical Activity
- Weight control
- Reduces the risk of some cancers
- Reduces stress
- Builds stronger muscles and bones
- Reduces the risk of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease
- Improves flexibility, balance and coordination
- Longer lifespan
- Promotes a positive life philosophy
The ABCs of Exercise
Slow and Steady
The secret to becoming physically active is to go at your own pace and to take it one step at a time. Individuals who have been inactive for several years, and told to increase their level of physical activity in an effort to improve their overall health, will not become runners overnight. For those of you who are starting out, it is recommended that you begin with brisk walks and that you gradually increase your speed. To motivate you to take those extra steps there are simple, effective tools, such as pedometers, that can encourage you to "increase your speed". This small, inexpensive gadget that counts the numbers of steps you take, is easy to use and is highly motivating. To start, set a goal of 1000 steps in 10 minutes and gradually work your way up to 3000 steps in 30 minutes. The important thing is to engage in consistent, regular activity and to set goals that are both reasonable and challenging.
Recommended Amount of Physical Activity
Adults should ideally engage in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day, five days a week. Children and teens should engage in one hour of physical activity a day but should avoid weight training since it may hinder growth. Last but not least, regular physical activity is also very important for seniors, as it allows them to maintain their autonomy for as long as possible.
Various Levels of Intensity
It is important to know that there are three levels of aerobic intensity. Being able to recognize the various levels will allow you to choose the one that best suits your level of fitness. The first one is known as low intensity. For example, shopping, cooking or doing laundry are not considered physical activities by most since they do not require much physical exertion. The second level of intensity is known as moderate. Increased heart rate and sweating characterize moderate intensity activities. A brisk walk, water aerobics and pushing a lawnmower are examples of moderate intensity activities. High intensity is the last and most vigorous level of aerobic intensity. Activities included in this category are jogging, swimming laps and playing tennis. Hard and fast breathing and being unable to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath characterize this level.
The Key to Perseverance
Here are key rules to help you stick to you physical fitness program and avoid injuries
- Listen to your body
The key to physical fitness is going at your own pace. One of the most common mistakes is wanting to progress too quickly and overstressing your body. When an injury occurs, rest is very important. Another important point when starting to get in shape is to start slowly and to progress at a healthy pace. For example, it is not recommended that you go from walking 20 minutes a day to jogging 30 minutes a day. The body needs time to get used to engaging in activities that are more sustained or that require more resistance. See your doctor if you experience palpitations, chest pain, abnormal shortness of breath or dizziness.
Cross-training involves engaging in a variety of physical activities rather than always repeating the same one. This training technique stimulates other muscle groups and reduces the impact on joints. For example, rather than jogging five days out of five, try swimming, cycling or even walking to prevent overuse.
- Make sure that you have the right gear
Many injuries are preventable and having the right gear is the first step to preventing injuries. For example, having the proper footwear for walking or jogging will prevent ankle, knee and hip injuries.
- Inquire about proper technique
Before starting a new sport, it is strongly recommended that you learn proper technique to prevent injury. Ask for professional guidance based on your ability level, likes and goals.
- Warm up and cool down
The point of warming up is to prepare the body for physical activity. It increases blood flow and warms the muscles that will be solicited during the workout. Cool down is also a crucial component to any activity since it prevents muscle pain, muscle soreness and injury. The cool down is divided into two parts: repeating the warm-up exercises and stretching.
A Word from your Pharmacist
Physical activity is vital to health. One does not need to join a gym to exercise. Taking a 30-minute walk, five to seven days a week, is plenty. Exercising can help delay or prevent the use of medication for diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as prevent dosage increases for some medications.
Have fun while you exercise! The benefits will be instantaneous.
|How much and how long depends on the intensity|
|Low intensity (60 minutes)||Moderate intensity (30-60 minutes)||High intensity (20-30 minutes)|
|Easy Walk||Brisk walk||Aerobics|
|Light gardening||Picking up leaves||Playing hockey|
|Dancing||Swimming or dancing at a continuous pace|
Source: Health Canada
For more information:
The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology