Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Promoting Healthy Change: Physical Activity

The bottom line is we all need to get moving!  There are so many benefits to exercise.  Everyone probably already knows this but the evidence is so compelling that I’m recommitted to stress this more with my patients.  In fact, I’ve grown complacent and lazy myself and plan to start becoming more intentional about exercise myself.
Now when I use the word “exercise” everyone is probably imagining going to the gym to use the machines or treadmill or join an organized sport.  Those are all great but physical activity does not necessarily need to be time consuming or expensive.  Simple things we can do during the day can increase the amount of physical activity or “steps” we take in a day.  For example:
·      Park farther out to increase walking distance to a building
·      Take the stairs instead of the elevator
·      Take a 10 min break during lunch and just walk
·      Try walking meetings instead of just sitting and talking meetings with friends
·      Get up and walk to the tv instead of flipping with the remote
·      Etc!
Goal is 10,000 steps a day.  Get a pedometer and start keeping track.  In fact, the fitbit is gaining popularity.  The nice thing about it is you can do this with a bunch of friends and keep one another accountable.
So what are the specific benefits?
Physical activity will affect:
·      Strength and power
·      Cardiorespiratory fitness
·      Balance
·      Flexibility
·      Agility
Here are a few medical conditions exercise will help:
·      Decreases heart attacks
·      Decreases strokes
·      Decreases high blood pressure
·      Decreases diabetes
·      Decreases osteoporosis
·      Helps with sexual functioning
·      Helps with depression and anxiety
·      Decreases total morbidity and mortality
Now here is a sobering fact for us, physicians:
·      1/3 of patients with high blood pressure received counseling to engage in physical activity
·      71% of those patients who were counseled to exercise actually followed the recommendation and lowered their blood pressure
So what is the amount of physical activity we are to aim for?
·      150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week
·      75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (in bouts of at least 10 min)
For more extensive health benefits aim for:
·      300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity
·      150 minutes of vigorous physical activity
·      resistance (muscle strengthening) at least twice per week
Here is how you can differentiate how intensely you are exercising:
·      Light = can talk and sing while exercising
·      Moderate = can talk but cannot sing while exercising
·      Vigorous = cannot sing and cannot talk for prolonged time
Couple more important facts:
·      Cannot really lose weight by exercise alone but it is important to maintain weight loss achieved
·      Need to fuel appropriately before and after exercise
·      Hydrate!  Hydrate!  Hydrate!