The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. You know exercise is good for you. But have you ever considered why it matters?
“Physical activity can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease,” said Elaine Auld, CEO of the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE).
Even better, physical activity and exercise can have immediate and long-term health benefits. Regular activity can improve your quality of life. Physical activity strengthens your heart, lungs, bones and muscles. It also gives you more energy and strength. Exercise helps control your weight and blood pressure, while assisting you with handling stress. It can also improve your sleep quality and help you feel better about how you look.
While scheduling gym time and workouts can make a huge difference in your activity level, it also helps if you can integrate your physical activity into your lifestyle. Here are some tips to help:
Try standing while at your desk. Get a standing desk. Or try a balance ball. If you have a conference call or long phone call, stand.
Get up and move around regularly. For every hour you sit, move for 5 minutes. If you cannot do this every hour, do it every two hours and increase the time to 10 minutes.
Walk more. A recent 2017 study showed over the last decade men and women are walking more. You can be part of this trend by walking for pleasure or to get around.
Move your meetings outside and keep them active. Try a walking meeting. If just 25 percent of your meetings are active, you will make big strides in health.
Add steps to your day. Park at the back end of the parking lot. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Walk to run errands. When you get to a store, do a few laps around the outer edge of the aisles before starting your shopping.
Be intentional about walking. Go for a walk in the evening with your family or in the early morning with a pet. If the weather is bad, go to a shopping mall to walk around. Many malls have “walking fitness” programs.
Find a partner. A friend can motivate you to be active and encourage you when you need it. Having a buddy to meet up with will encourage you to stay active.
Use technology to get active. Try a smartwatch, Fitbit or pedometer. Many smartphones have pedometers and nutrition apps installed. Websites offer charts, activity ideas and more.
Auld points out that earlier this year, the U.S. Surgeon General has called on Americans to walk more, and for communities to be more walkable too.
To help promote healthier communities, SOPHE partnered in a three-year national initiative, Partnering4Health, which has projects in 97 communities across the country. The Plan4Health project is part of the initiative’s work and led by the American Planning Association (APA). The project encourages city planners to consider public health when making decisions about how cities are structured and developed.
That means they are working to help communities be more pedestrian and bike friendly. That includes helping communities figure out how to calm traffic so it’s safer to walk, and encouraging people to embrace the idea of walking or biking instead of driving.
In Ajo, Arizona, a diverse coalition is working to increase opportunities for active living. Combining access to bicycles and bicycle education, opportunities for residents to create short videos about their relationship to Ajo and active living, and work to build a safe and accessible bike path throughout the town, the coalition has energized an often overlooked community.
In Springfield, Missouri, APA and coalition partners used orange cones and plants to set up a pop-up traffic calming area to encourage drivers to slow down. Data from the project is shared with city traffic planners.
In addition to SOPHE and APA, Partnering4Health partners also include the National WIC Association, the American Heart Association, and the Directors of Health Promotion & Education.
The American Heart Association’s initiative, Oregon Kids Move with Heart partnership, collaborated with the Beaverton School District to create a Physical Activity Toolkit. Elementary schools in the program are increasing physical activity by 50 minutes each week by beginning each school day with 10 minutes of activities from the toolkit. Participating middle schools are incorporating “Brain Boosts” throughout the day too.