Move your butt
Even a little activity bears fruit Guest writer
Something weird happened this wet drizzly morning. After parking in our nice dry Blue Cross parking deck and walking down the ramp and out onto the rainy sidewalk, I discovered that I had left my umbrella in my car. Walking back to my car, I realized I was glad I had forgotten it: I was getting in another 200 steps on a slight incline.
Maybe personal introspection would show that the weirdness was all me, but this brief event confirmed for me that I have bought into the idea that incorporating multiple brief periods of physical activity is the most practical way for me to get exercise.
In November, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, second edition, was released by the Department of Health and Human Services. One change from the 2008 edition helped me understand my morning umbrella retrieval. In 2008, the recommendation was that activity needed to be at least 10 minutes’ duration to be of benefit. That recommendation has been eliminated. The evidence shows we do get benefit from brief trips to retrieve umbrellas, walks from parking lots, and quick trips around the block. And the brief excursions add up. And what is the benefit? In Arkansas today, too many of us have elevated DBT. Okay, DBT is not in the report. I made that up, but Daily Butt Time is a good description for our sedentary lifestyle. Many of us spend far too many hours each day sitting, and too much sitting increases the risk for poor health: an increased risk of all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease and mortality, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers such as colon cancer.
But the evidence gives us hope. If we move more and sit less, almost any increase in activity has health benefit, and some of that benefit can be immediate.
Most benefit comes from 150 to 300 minutes per week of moderate exercise, but any increase in activity is good. For people who do more, there seems to be little risk, and there is some continued health benefit beyond the 300 minutes. We also benefit from at least two days a week of muscle strengthening, and for older adults, balance training is also helpful.
Unfortunately, fewer than a quarter of American adults meet these guidelines, and the result is far too much unnecessary expense, disease, and death.
The benefits to increased activity can be substantial. For kids there seems to be better cognition and decreased obesity. For adults, there is a decreased risk of dementia, falls, and weight gain. Sleep patterns, anxiety, and quality of life can improve.
There can even be national security implications. One-third of Americans 17-24 years of age are not qualified for military service because of obesity.
So how do we get started? If we “start low and go slow,” and choose activities appropriate for our health and fitness level, most of us can probably get going without having a medical evaluation first. For most of us, our preferred activity will be walking. But if you have any questions or chronic conditions, there is no downside to seeing your health care provider.
And it never hurts to think about what you are trying to accomplish. Set some personal goals. Maybe you want to get fit enough to walk through the zoo with your kids or grandkids or go shopping.
Afew days ago I had a colleague in my car as I looked for a place to park. I intentionally drove past the first available space and headed to the back of the lot so we could get in a few more minutes.
I did feel a little guilty when her high heels kept sinking in the muddy grass, but not too much guilt: She can count those few minutes as muscle strengthening.