Physical activity for good health and wellbeing
Physical activity and exercise are great ways to keep your body healthy, reduce your risk of disease and improve mood. Physical activity refers to any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires your body to burn calories (expend energy) such as shopping, gardening and doing housework. Exercise is planned, structured, repetitive and intentional movement such as going for a walk, participating in sport or going to the gym.
Benefits of physical activity
Research shows that regular physical activity and exercise provides a range of physical and mental health benefits such as:
- Reduces the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease and stroke
- Lowers the risk of diabetes[7, 8]
- Lowers risk of dementia
- Reduces the risk of various types of cancer[10-12] (including breast cancer[13, 14] and colon cancer)
- Reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Improves muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness[17, 18]
- Improves bone and functional health
- Reduces the risk of falls as well as hip or vertebral fractures
- Improves cognitive function
- Helps to maintain a healthy body weight
Physical activity recommendations
For good physical and mental health, the World Health Organization recommends adults (aged 18 to 64 years) aim to be physically active for 30 minutes on 5 days per week or accumulate 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity such as a brisk walk, digging the garden or water aerobics; or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity such as running; or a combination of moderate, vigorous and very vigorous (e.g. climbing, sprinting) throughout the week. Any activity is better than none, however for additional health benefits aerobic activity should be increased to 60 minutes of moderate intensity activity, 5 days per week. Moderate intensity exercise increases breathing and heart rate while still being able to carry out a conversation while vigorous intensity activity results in breathing heavily, faster heart rate, sweating, heightened concentration, and difficultly holding a conversation. Muscle strengthening activities such as gardening, hill walking or carrying shopping should be done at least two days a week to develop or maintain strength in the major muscle groups. Find more information on physical activity recommendations for different groups here.
The national physical activity plan for Ireland recommends that people aged 65 years and older include varied multicomponent physical activity that emphasizes functional balance and strength training at moderate or greater intensity, on 3 or more days a week, to enhance functional capacity and to prevent falls. Check out Sport Irelands older adult exercise plan here.
In addition to reducing the risk of disease, managing existing conditions, and developing and maintaining physical and mental function being active contributes to wider benefits of social health throughout the life cycle. Worldwide, around 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men do not do enough physical activity to stay healthy. Finding time to exercise can be challenging, the good news is that even exercising for an average of 15 minutes per day reduces risk of all-cause mortality and increases life expectancy by 3 years. Don’t worry about setting small goals at first, simply going for a walk can help lower blood pressure, decrease fat circulating in blood stream, improve your blood vessels and have a positive impact on mood. Reduce sedentary time by taking regular breaks from sitting and find activities, locations and times that you enjoy being active. Check out your Local Sports Partnership to discover the many initiatives to increase physical activity within your local community here.
This article was first published on the MET Medicinal Nutrition & Sport Technologies blog.
Visit the MET Technology Gateway website for more information.
Author: Ciara Cooney, MET Technology Gateway
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