As a practicing physician, one of the common mistakes that I see my patients make, is that they believe because they are physically active at work, that somehow negates the need to engage in sustained aerobic activity. Indeed, that is not to say that the activity at work isn’t beneficial. My concern is that over time when you do the same activity, your body becomes conditioned to it. As a result, the activity is no longer challenging. The overall benefit may not be so great. The Center For Disease Control (CDC) recommends the following activity:
For Overall Cardiovascular Health
At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 minutes
At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
Moderate to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.
For Lowering Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
An average 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity 3 or 4 times per week
Moderate or vigorous activity will be dependent on how hard you breathe or how fast your heart beats. How you perceive the level of intensity will vary for everyone. We are all at different fitness levels, thus do not compare yourself to others. And certainly, if you were previously sedentary, do not compete with the likes of an athlete like Serena Williams. Also, keep in mind that you may be limited in how aggressive you can be if you have heart or lung disease. As always, consult with your physician before you engage in any physical activity.
Doc, what’s the difference between physical activity vs exercise?
I had a chance recently to attend a Wellness seminar wherein physical activity vs exercise was defined.
The CDC has specific definitions for physical activity and exercise. Physical Activity is defined as “any body movement that helps you use more energy than you would when resting. Whereas exercise is a type of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive and usually has an objective, like physical fitness and weight loss. Health enhancing physical activity is activity, that when added to baseline activate of daily life(standing, walking slowly, lifting lightweight objects), produces health benefits.
From my experience when counseling patients about exercise, it is not uncommon that the response I get is negative. Some will say, but doc, “I don’t like to exercise” or “I don’t like to sweat.” You would be surprised at the types of excuses that I hear. Keeping that in mind, one of the lessons I learned from attending the Wellness seminar was that medical professionals are encouraged to ask their patients to be physically active, as opposed to encouraging exercise. The idea being exercise for some folks equates to work and something that is perceived more as a chore, hence something they are less likely to do.
On this Move It Monday, I encourage you to be physically active. Choose an activity that you enjoy and that makes you happy. You are more likely to continue an activity that brings a smile to your face. So if being a gym rat doesn’t work for you, do something else. That something else can be anything from walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, biking, kickboxing, playing tennis or playing basketball. Gardening and heavy yard work are also forms of physical activity. Keep in mind that the difference in being active at work versus engaging in the aforementioned activities, you are more likely to do these activities for a sustained amount of time, either 20 or more minutes. Being physically active at work is a bonus and shouldn’t be a substitute.