Exercise and physical activity may be different, but both can offer the same health benefits. Regular exercise is a critical part of staying healthy and living longer. Even modest amounts of exercise and physical activity are good for your health. The more active you are, the more you will benefit. Set a goal and aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. There has been a lot of research done over the years that has proven over and over that it is better to exercise and be physically active than not to be. The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association have issued recommendations and the federal government has created guidelines for exercise. Sweden has developed a very effective program called Physical Activity on Prescription to get people to be physically active. The AHA is campaigning daily exercise, exercise testing and exercise training to improve cardiovascular health. Exercise can be done alone or with someone. You do not need to join a health club to exercise or to be physically active. Exercising and being physically active is inexpensive and adds years to your life. Once you start exercising it becomes routine and eventually you become motivated to keep going.
All exercise is physical activity, not all physical activity is exercise. Knowing the difference between exercising and being physically active and finding the balance in life is what is important. The definition of exercising is bodily or mental exertion, especially for the sake of training or improvement of health. Exercising is a type of physical activity that is planned and structured with the goal of improving health or fitness. In other words you are moving on purpose. Examples of exercising are walking, lifting weights, taking an aerobics class, and playing on a sports team. Physical activity defined is any body movement that works your muscles and requires more energy than resting. It is also movement that occurs as a part of daily life and enhances health. Examples of physical activity include walking, running, climbing stairs, dancing, swimming, yoga, tai chi, bicycling, mowing the lawn and gardening.
The Benefits of Exercise and Physical Activity:
• Increases your chances of living longer.
• Boosts your self-esteem.
• Improves your mental health and mood.
• Promotes better sleep.
• Puts the spark back into your sex life.
• Helps control your weight.
• Boosts your energy level.
• Boosts your immune system.
• Helps relieve indigestion.
• Improves your ability to do daily activities.
• Better cognitive function.
• Strengthens your bones and muscles.
• Helps you manage arthritis pain.
• Reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease.
• Reduces your risk for stroke.
• Can lower your blood pressure and improve your cholesterol level.
• Reduces your risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
• Reduces your risk for some types of cancers: lung, colon, and breast.
• Reduces your risk for developing chronic diseases.
• Helps prevent falls for older people.
• Can be fun and help you connect with family and friends.
There have been a lot of studies done using animals and humans over the past decade showing us that exercise improves the ability to learn and remember. On August 08, 2013, an article was published by the American College of Sports Medicine. The article talked about two new studies done in Germany proving the same results that timing and intensity of even a small amount of exercise can affect your ability to remember. Both studies were conducted by Maren Schmidt-Kassow, a professor at the Institute of Medical Psychology at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. May 2013 a study was published in PLOS One, involving 81 healthy young German speaking women who were randomly divided into three groups. Each group wore headphones for 30 minutes while listening to a list of paired words. One word was a German noun and the other word was its Polish equivalent. The women had to memorize the word that was most unfamiliar. There was one thing different about the condition with which the words were heard. One group had to sit quietly for 30 minutes while listening to the new words. A second group had to ride a stationary bike for 30 minutes; then they sat down with the headphones on and listened to the new words. A third group rode a bicycle for 30 minutes with the headphones on and listened to the new words. Two days later the woman had to complete tests using their new vocabulary. All the women were able to recall some of the new words. The women who were both on the bicycle and listening to the new words at the same time did the best.
There was a second study done in May 2013 at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Indianapolis. This study involved 11 females reading a dense chapter from a college textbook on two occasions: once while sitting quietly and then on a different day they had to exercise on an elliptical machine for 30 minutes. The females were tested immediately after each session. Then they were retested the next day. What they found out was the women’s memories were worse on the memory test that was conducted after they exercised while reading. The group that did better was the group that had been sitting quietly and studying. The women were retested the next day and their ability to recall the new material had disappeared.
Both studies proved that exercising during learning was more effective than exercising before learning or not exercising at all. Memory recall was better a day or two after exercise. Walter Bixby, an associate professor at Elon University in North Carolina, oversaw the study and says, “If you have an exam in a few hours you should probably sit quietly and study. However, if you have an exam the next day it would not hurt if you studied while you exercised because it might help.”
Click here to read the study. ACSM: How Exercise Can Help Us Learn.
Government guidelines recommend that adults engage in 2.5 hours of moderately intense physical activity per week. In an article published on June 24, 2013, Dr. Robert Oppliger, an exercise physiologist, says, “bicycling has positive effects on weight and cardio-vascular health, even 10 minutes a couple times a week is beneficial for obesity.” August 2013 the American Medical Association designated obesity, which affects one third of U.S. adults, a disease. Liz Neporent, a New York fitness expert and author of “Fitness for Dummies” says that cycling gets the heart and lungs into shape and exercises muscles without putting stress on the joints.
Click here to read the study. ACSM: Bike Sharing Offers Big Fitness Benefits for the Little Commute.
On May 15, 2013, the American Heart Association published a study they funded. Fitness levels for two fitness tests from 9,050 men and women (average age 48) were ranked, eight years apart, during mid-life. They followed up with the participants for 18 years. They matched the fitness information to Medicare claims for hospitalizations involving heart failure. Ambarish Pandey, M.D., an internal medicine resident at the University Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and lead author of the study said, “People who were not fit at the start of the study were at a higher risk for heart failure after age 65. However, those who improved their fitness reduced their heart failure risk, compared to those who continued to have a low fitness level eight years later.” The researchers measured how people did on a treadmill test. Each time the participant improved on the treadmill their risk of heart failure decreased by 20 percent. Every time a person survives a heart attack and lives with heart disease the number of people with heart failure increases. According to the American Heart Association more than 5.1 million Americans live with heart failure. By 2030 the number of people with heart failure may increase by 25 percent from the 2013 estimates. Ambarish Pandey, M.D., says, “Improving fitness is a good heart failure prevention strategy-along with controlling blood pressure and improving diet and lifestyle-that could be employed in mid-life to decrease the risk of heart failure in later years.”
Click here to read the study. AHA: Getting Fit in Middle Age Can Reduce Heart Failure Risk.
Make Daily Exercise and Physical Activity a Priority
On July 22, 2013, The American Heart Association established the 2020 Impact Goals for improved ideal cardiovascular health, which is a combination of practicing 4 health behaviors and achieving 3 health factors. One of these behaviors is regular physical activity and exercise, which may be the most efficient tool for improving cardiovascular health. Exercise testing has been widely used as a tool to aid in the diagnosis of coronary artery disease. Physical activity and exercise may be the most efficient tool for improving cardiovascular health. It was only discovered 20 years ago that lack of sufficient physical activity and exercise was considered a major risk factor of equal importance as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking. In 1995 the first public health statement included the accumulated evidence. It was included in the 1996 Surgeon General’s report on physical activity and health. Updated recommendations were issued by the American College of Sports Medicine and the AHA in 2007. In 2008 the first ever federal guidelines on physical activity were created. These reports document that physical activity and exercise are beneficial in the prevention and/or treatment of many chronic diseases. Sweden developed a program called Physical Activity on Prescription to get people to be physically active on a regular basis and it is proving to be very effective. The American College of Sports Medicine has also developed a campaign called Exercise is Medicine, which assesses exercise habits as a vital sign. In the 2013 exercise standards the new AHA statement states “exercise can be viewed as a preventative medical treatment, ‘like a pill’ that should be taken on an almost daily basis.” The Lancet says, “The prescription of physical activity should be placed on a par with drug prescription.” The AHA says the time is now for both exercise testing and exercise training which may provide the most benefit for the healthcare dollar. It is cost effective from both a medical and financial perspective to use exercise testing and exercise training to improve cardiovascular health. We can all benefit from exercise and physical activity. You should check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have any health conditions that require medical attention.
Click here to read the study. AHA: A New Standard for Exercise It is Time to Move it to Make it a High-Level Priority.
Resources for Further Reading:
CDC: Physical Activity and Health.
MayoClinic.com: Exercise 7 Benefits of Regular Physical Activity.
Everydayhealth.com: Exercise and Physical Activity What’s the Difference?
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.