This week on my blog, I’ve hammered into the need for physical activity- how it improves your current mental and physical health and simple ways that you can start or increase your daily movement. Before you click away and think this doesn’t apply to you because you’re a spring chick of 30-something, keep reading.
Physical inactivity is a worldwide epidemic. It leads to various diseases, disabilities, and even death. We're learning that physical activity can prevent us from suffering from these adverse effects.
Let’s remember that physical activity is NOT exercise. It’s any bodily movement that contributes to an increase in daily energy expenditure. It is not planned, nor structured, and it helps to start with simple movement before you start an exercise program.
Society focuses on the treatment of disease with medicine, however, physical activity, good nutrition, and exercise can help reverse many chronic conditions (along with medical treatment). What most of us don’t realize is how simple daily movement can prevent chronic diseases like hypertension, dyslipidemia, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, low-back pain, and osteoporosis. It helps increase your daily caloric needs, helping your body become a fuel burning machine, and boosts cognitive performance.
Read it again, prevent. So take a look at your parents and great-grandparents, are they popping pills like it’s the only thing keeping them alive? Let’s work to prevent you from going down a path of endless doctor appointments and pills.
Primary Prevention of Disease
Studies have shown that increasing physical activity, like walking, not only reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, decreased hypertension, dyslipidemia (high cholesterol), and cancer, but it serves as primary prevention. That means that an increase in a physical fitness can PREVENT these conditions. Check out this narrative review by Warburn, Nicol, and Bredin if you are interested in learning more.
Increasing your physical activity can also increase your daily energy expenditure. This isn't our main goal, however, movement often brings more energy expenditure. You’re now moving! You’re burning more calories. Remember, this should not be your main WHY, but it’s a great start for people on a fat loss journey. Increasing caloric expenditure by fidgeting, taking quick 5 min walks, gardening, cleaning the house, or having an impromptu dance party is called NEAT. NEAT simply stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. This is the energy your body uses to move. Remember this is NOT exercise, these are simple daily movements that can also include fidgeting, brushing your teeth, or using the stairs in the office. Increasing these movements will result in your body using more calories daily.
It's true: physical activity helps you keep your mind sharp. Several studies have found that physically active adults performed better on cognitive tests than their sedentary counterparts. Even small amounts of activity had positive effects on cognitive performance. Currently, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-vigorous activity daily for "brain health", which includes components of executive functioning that includes the ability to plan, organize and monitor behaviors andinitiate tasks.
To recap, a physically active lifestyle can increase energy expenditure throughout the day, counteract disease, prevent disease, and boost cognitive performance. You don't need to exercise for hours on end to enjoy these benefits. We're talking about simple daily movements. It can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking to the grocery store instead of driving. Physical activity is something that can be easily integrated into anyone's life, regardless of their current fitness level, resulting in noticeable health improvements. Moreover, adding an extra few hundred (or thousand) steps a day will only enhance these improvements- check out my post on adding steps to your day here. Remember, this shouldn't be your only form of movement, however, so a strength training program to increase muscle mass is also needed.
Need help getting started on an exercise program? As an NASM certified personal trainer, I design customized programs that fit into your lifestyle, goals, and current fitness status.
Schedule a complimentary consult with me today.
Prakash RS, Voss MW, Erickson KI, Kramer AF. Physical activity and cognitive vitality. Annu Rev Psychol. 2015 Jan 3;66:769-97. doi: 10.1146/annurev-psych-010814-015249. Epub 2014 Sep 12. PMID: 25251492.