The American Academy of Sports Medicine, the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world, has declared May Exercise is MedicineTM month. Exercise is MedicineTM is a global initiative designed to make "levels of physical activity" a standard vital sign to be assessed in every patient visit with a physician. It is based on the idea that exercise is a powerful tool in the prevention of chronic disease and should be prescribed by physicians as both preventative medicine and a first line of treatment.
Exercise is medicine. Think about it. Exercise has proven health benefits for your heart, your brain, and your metabolism. Exercise helps you lose weight, promotes bone strength, and improves mental health. The combined benefits of exercise on every inch of your body cannot be replicated in a pill, a gel, or a shot. And yet exercise seems to be the last resort considered in the face of chronic disease. As a nation, we are far from making exercise a regular conversation with our physicians, let alone an action plan to fight disease.
So to do my part, I'm going to celebrate Exercise is Medicine month here on Speed Bump. I seem to have hit a speed bump in my own exercise goals lately and I'm hoping writing about exercise on a regular basis here will provide some extra motivation for myself, and hopefully others. Please check back in during May for some fun facts, tips, and inspiration to exercise.
One of the first things people always want to know when talking about exercise is, how much and how often? While there are variations depending on age, health status, and your own training goals, the most recent guidelines established in 2008 by the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Sports Medicine are a good place to start. These guidelines recommend 30 minutes of moderate* exercise 5 times per week (or 20 minutes of vigorous** exercise 3 times per week) plus 10 strength training exercises of 8-12 reps at least 2 days per week. I don't hit those numbers every week, but I try.
Many people get immediately discouraged with these recommendations and it's easy to understand why. But it's important to remember that any activity is better than none! A colleague of mine recently published a very cool study where they took healthy and active adults and asked them to cut the number of steps they took each day in half. Just three days of an almost completely sedentary lifestyle altered blood glucose regulation in these otherwise healthy individuals. Read the NY Times blog post about this study here.
The take home message - keep moving! Every little bit counts.
*Moderate-intensity physical activity means working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat, yet still being able to carry on a conversation. Examples: brisk walking, ballroom dancing or general gardening.
**Vigorous-intensity physical activity causes rapid breathing and a substantial increase in heart rate. Example: jogging, aerobic dancing or jumping rope.