You, Too, Can Lead an Active Life
It’s no secret: Exercising is good for you.
Numerous studies have shown the health benefits of being active and that people of all ages can improve their health and well-being by engaging in physical activity of moderate-intensity on a regular basis.
Regular physical activity substantially reduces the risk of dying of coronary heart disease—the nation’s leading cause of death. It also decreases the risk for stroke, certain cancers and diabetes. It helps with controlling weight and high blood pressure, contributes to healthy bones, muscles and joints, and can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Yet the Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than half of all American adults do not get enough physical activity to provide health benefits and 25 percent are not active at all in their leisure time.
It doesn’t have to be that way, says Dr. Madhav Goyal, M.D., of the NorthBay Center for Primary Care in Vacaville. “If a person has not been in a regular exercise routine, I recommend starting in a gradual fashion—15–20 minutes a day for the first week and then gradually increasing over the course of one to two months, progressing to something more intensive,” says Dr. Goyal. “There are guidelines (for exercise requirements in adults) but they are just ‘on average’ figures because everyone is different and has different needs and limitations—lifestyles, schedules, physical needs—so each person needs to adapt their routines to those issues.”
The good news is that it’s never too late to start an active lifestyle. No matter how old you are, how out of shape you feel, or how long you’ve been inactive, research shows that getting active can make you healthier and improve your quality of life.
“The more intense the activity, the harder the heart works. And, the longer you are able to do that, the better it is for the heart. The increased cardio helps with weight loss and mood and stress issues,” notes Dr. Goyal. “And randomized trials have shown it also helps to fight infections. One hour of moderate-intensive exercise for five to six days a week decreases the rate of catching colds by up to 50 percent compared to those who don’t exercise.”
Dr. Goyal says an ideal program for the average adult would include a 15-minute warm-up period “to build up to sweating and breathing more heavily” and then would maintain that intensity for 45 minutes.
Adults with health and physical issues may want to meet with their doctor and talk about an exercise program first. “Adults come with variety of issues—arthritis, heart disease, other organs that are not working well, COPD—so if they have problems when they exercise like chest discomfort or lightheadedness, it’s important to see a doctor because these could be an indication that something more serious is going on that needs to be addressed.”
Outside of those types of issues, Dr. Goyal says everyone should be able to at least walk a bit each day. The important thing is to get up and move.
“Anything that gets us to move more is probably a good thing. Our jobs have changed, the working world is different than it was 50–100 years ago,” Dr. Goyal notes. “When we consider all the computers and appliances that help do things for us today, they make us more sedentary. That increases the urgency for us to see that we spend some time each week taking care of ourselves and being active.”