There is no drug in current or prospective use that holds as much promise for sustained health as a lifetime program of physical exercise.” That statement appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1982. Since then, it has been proven true, again and again. As many as 12% of all deaths—250,000 per year—in the U.S. may be attributed indirectly to lack of regular physical activity, according to the CDC. Only about one in four Americans exercises enough to be considered physically active.
But there’s a lot of hype and folklore about exercise and fitness. We all get lots of advice about what to do and what not to do—from gym buddies, magazine articles, workers in health-food stores, and others. Here’s a wrap-up of the latest exercise ideas and what we think of them.
10,000 Steps a Day
Count your steps to walk more—a pedometer makes it easy. This will encourage you to make your day more active. If you already walk 2,000 steps a day in the course of your daily activities, aim for 3,000 steps, and then work up to at least 5,000 steps (about 2.5 miles for the average stride). Some exercise programs advise 10,000 steps as a goal, but there is no magic number. Leave the car at home if you can walk the mile or two to the store. Or choose a more distant parking space. Walk to work, at least part of the way. Skip elevators and escalators and take the stairs. The more briskly you walk, the better.
Research has found that short bouts of exercise can produce the same physical and psychological benefits as longer workouts. One study compared the effects of one brisk 30-minute walk with three brisk 10-minute walks spread out over the course of a day. Both regimens, done five days a week for six weeks, produced similar improvements in blood cholesterol levels and aerobic ability, as well as decreases in tension and anxiety. The total number of calories expended each week in physical activity is the key, and the more the better.
Excerpted From: UC Berkeley Wellness Letter Alert: “The Latest Findings On Lifelong Fitness” 2011