LIVING THE ZONE: Physical II

How much is enough?

My previous blog post clearly detailed a hopefully convincing argument to exercise regularly!  When I confront any patient with this motivation, I can usually bet any money in my wallet of the first question I am asked?

“How much of this stuff do I really need?” …And what I read into that question is the inevitable quest for the real knowledge…”What is the least amount of exercise I can do to reduce my risk of contracting and dying from one of the really horrible chronic diseases that kill over 50% of people on planet earth…cardiac disease, chronic lung disease, cancer and diabetes?”.

So here is the minimum prescription:

To promote and maintain your health, all adults between the ages of 18 and 65 years, need moderate-intensity aerobic (endurance) physical activity like walking, light cycling, rowing, or swimming.  The aim is to elevate your heart rate for a minimum of 30 minutes for 5 days each week.  Moderate intensity exercise means that you should start light sweating if you continue that level of exercise for more than 10 minutes but you should never be so out of breath that you cannot chat to a person exercising with you.

If you wish to do more vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity like jogging , running or cycling, where you sweat, breath harder and faster, and at times would be hard pressed to have a flowing conversation, you would need to exercise for a minimum of 20 minutes, for at least 3 days each week.

Combinations of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity can be performed to meet this recommendation.  For example, a person can meet the recommendation by walking briskly for 30 minutes twice during the week and then jogging for 20 minutes on two other days.

 If you are too busy to get in a 30 or 20 minute session during the day you can accumulate your minutes of exercise toward the 30-minute minimum by performing bouts each lasting 10 or more minutes.

 If you are battling to make this recommendation, or think that you are getting enough exercise in your workday, then another way of taking up this challenge is to go and buy a step-counter (pedometer) and make sure you get between 8000-10000 steps per day.  If you are….you are getting enough!

 In addition to the above recommendations, every adult should do some exercises that maintain or increase muscle strength and endurance, on a minimum of 2 days each week. Eight to ten different exercises using the major muscle groups of the legs, trunk, chest and shoulders should be performed; do one or two sets of 8–12 repetitions.

 There is also scientific evidence that regular stretching, that increases the range of motion of the joints, and exercises that are targeted at the strengthening the core (the area between the buttocks and belly-button) will reduce the risk of developing an injury.  A biokineticist, physiotherapist or personal trainer can help you with a good programme that incorporates these last two components.

 If you are over 65, then it is a good idea to start with a medical evaluation prior to exercise and get a biokineticist to draw up an individualized programme to specifically suit your needs.  At this age balance exercises should also be added to your programme.

So this is what it means to exercise your way back to good health and ensure your quality of the physical dimension looking ahead.  Start slowly and increase your exercise intensity gradually.  And don’t forget, if you experience any symptoms or discomfort during your quest….it would be a good idea to chat to your doctor about this.

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