Our bodies are a combination of 206 bones and more than 600 muscles that do everything from pumping blood to helping us carry heavy groceries to the kitchen. Just like any other animal, our bodies are designed for movement. Muscles need to stay in shape to work properly and keep us active in the ways we are accustomed to moving. Our ancestors were constantly on the move engaging in manual labor or walking as a means of transportation. Compared to generations before us, we are spending increasing amounts of time in environments that limit our ability to be physically active. Thanks to modern conveniences that have created less physically demanding lives, we are often in situations that encourage prolonged sitting – at home, work, travel, and social gatherings. Evidence shows that all this time spent sitting is having serious effects on our health.
To help prevent the development of multiple chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers, we need to move our bodies at moderate-to-vigorous intensity for 150 minutes each week. This breaks down to about 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. Does this seem like a lot of time to dedicate to being active? That leaves 165.5/168 hours free each week to pet your dog, brush your teeth, and complete other important tasks. Moderate activities include any movement that increases your heart rate and quickens the breath but still allows you to speak comfortably during the activity.
Try your best to begin gradually, adding more movement to your day. For example, park a little further from the store or office and walk quickly to raise your heart rate. Interrupt every 30 minutes spent sedentary with a quick dance, yoga, or workout video found free online. Take a mental break with a brisk 10-15-minute walk or use common objects around you to strengthen your muscles. Research shows the activity needs to be done for at least 10 minutes to receive health benefits. If you are busy, scatter your 30 minutes of activity into 10-minute chunks throughout the day. Small improvements doing activities during the day that lead you to move more and sit less can make a big difference for your health.
For more information on the benefits and recommendations for physical activity check out these additional resources:
- Haskell WL, Lee IM, Pate RR, et al. Physical activity and public health: updated recommendation for adults from the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2007;116(9):1081-1093. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.107.185649
- O’Donovan G, Blazevich AJ, Boreham C, et al. The ABC of Physical Activity for Health: a consensus statement from the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences. J Sports Sci. 2010;28(6):573-591. doi:10.1080/02640411003671212
- Owen N, Sparling PB, Healy GN, Dunstan DW, Matthews CE. Sedentary behavior: emerging evidence for a new health risk. Mayo Clin Proc. 2010;85(12):1138-1141. doi:10.4065/mcp.2010.0444