As a weight loss specialist, I have heard the same studies that many other people in the health and fitness arena have heard as far as the benefits of physical activity. Physical activity and its benefits on health have been studied repeatedly, and many guidelines have been published on how to prevent chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes through exercise.
As a physician early in my career, I would explain to my obese patient who had joint pain and other co-morbid medical conditions that the guidelines stated that they should exercise with moderate to intense activity for 300 minutes a week. This was the guideline. But in looking back and hearing my speech on exercise, I can see how this would be daunting. This was a lot for me, and I consider myself very physically active, working out at least four or five times a week, and it was difficult for me to reach that many minutes in a week. Essentially, I asked people to work out with moderate intensity for 60 minutes five days a week. Most people, including myself, would not be able to do this let alone someone who gets short of breath when walking around or doing household chores, which was my typical patient.
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Although I appreciate guidelines and I think they are useful, as providers and even patients, we have to understand there are limits and we have to personalize the health journey. So telling my patient, in my early days, what the guidelines were and then saying now go do them to get better was not very helpful if I wanted them to do what was actually going to help them. If anything it just overwhelmed them. I have since learned how to educate on guidelines and then personalize it to what they can do.
Recently there have been more studies on exactly how much exercise one needs a day to prevent premature death and decrease heart disease and other chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cancer. One hundred and fifty minutes became a guideline to be tested after the 300 minutes was re-tested, and there was in fact a benefit seen in just getting 75 minutes a week. Research from the UK showed that just by doing an accumulation of 75 minutes a week of moderate intensity, one could reduce premature death by 23%, and it also showed a decreased risk in the other chronic condition categories as well, ecspecially with heart disease. Not only that but many will be excited to learn that doubling it or even tripling it did not show an exponential benefit in these percentages, only marginal.
So if you were overwhelmed at 300 minutes a week or felt 150 minutes a week was too much, then you are in luck because it has been shown that just 10-11 minutes a day can be beneficial to our health and is something most people can do. Moderate intensity would include a brisk walk and I have even noticed my heart rate increase with hand washing my SUV! It can be anything that can get your heart rate up for at least 10 minutes. And of course, anything above that intensity is helpful, such as running, dancing, hiking, swimming, etc. Get creative and have fun.
Small increases in non-occupational physical activity in adults can reap substantial rewards and protection against early death and improve outcomes and prevention of chronic disease.