Physical activity is any body movement that increases your heart beat, causes you to breathe harder, and requires more energy than you use while resting. Exercise is any structured physical activity you do specifically to improve health or fitness.
Physical activity is key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Balancing the calories you take in through food and drinks with the calories you burn during activity is important, even if you are currently at a healthy weight. Regular physical activity reduces the risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure, and others.
What are the benefits of physical activity?
Nearly all people can benefit from physical activity. The benefits far outweigh the risks.
In children and adolescents, regular physical activity can lead to:
- Healthier body weight
- Improved heart, lung, and blood vessel function
- Stronger bones and muscles
- Improved mental well-being
In adults, regular physical activity can lead to the above, as well as:
- Lower risk of dying early from any cause
- Lower risk of developing certain chronic diseases and colon and breast cancer
- Help support weight loss and prevent weight gain
- Prevent falls and reduce the risk of breaking a hip
- Make it easier to perform daily activities
- Improve mental function
- Improve sleep
Follow these tips to add more physical activity to your day:
- Park farther from the office, store, or school to add steps to your trip.
- Take the bus!
- Research shows that individuals who use public transit weigh less and achieve the daily recommendations for physical activity.
- Find a safe route and bike to work, school, or errands.
- When available, take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- If climbing multiple floors is difficult, go up a few flights and then take the elevator the rest of the way.
- Organize a 'walking school bus' in your neighborhood.
- Volunteer to walk your kids and/or neighborhood kids to school.
- Walk to your errands if they are within a mile of each other.
- Take your pet, kids, family, or friends on a walk after dinner.
- Light physical activity will aid digestion and help you fall asleep faster.
In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services developed the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines follow the latest research emphasizing the benefits of regular physical activity for people of all ages:
Adults - For health benefits, adults should be active for at least:
- 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate intensity activity a week, or 75 minutes (1 hour 15 mins) of vigorous activity per week.
For weight loss and additional health benefits, adults should increase their physical activity to:
- 300 minutes (5 hours) or moderate-intensity activity, or 150 minutes of vigorous activity, each week. Both aerobic (endurance) and muscle-strengthening (resistance) physical activity are beneficial.
Older Adults - Follow the same guidelines as other adults, but if this is difficult, older adults should be encouraged to be as active as their abilities will allow. Older adults should perform exercises that:
- Maintain or improve balance to reduce the risk of accidental falls. Muscle strengthening exercises are also important to maintain balance and mobility as adults age.
Children/Youth - Children and adolescents should get:
- 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.
- Children can also benefit from muscle/bone strengthening activities, at least three days per week.
The lack of physical activity among youth, including non-structured play-time and reduced recess and physical education is taking a toll. Children are spending less than half as much time outside today as they did 20 years ago. Whether watching television, playing on the computer or with video games, children are spending less time being active outdoors, and more time plugged in indoors. Children spend an average 7 hours per day plugged into electronic media; some may spend only 30 minutes per week outside.
This lack of outdoor exposure and activity contributes to the increase in childhood overweight and obesity as well as depression, asthma, attention deficit disorders and pharmaceutical use. For many of these physical, mental and emotional problems, the cure may be just outside the door.
IPAN encourages every Idahoan to reduce their screen time and increase their green time by spending more time playing, exploring and reconnecting with nature. For more information on a movement in Idaho to re-connect kids with nature, from backyards to mountaintops, including a list of "101 Things To Do Outside" visit: www.beoutsideidaho.org