Move your butt

Even a lit­tle ac­tiv­ity bears fruit Guest writer

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - VIC SNY­DER Vic Sny­der is the cor­po­rate med­i­cal direc­tor for ex­ter­nal af­fairs at Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield.

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.

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