Nutrition

It's Official: We Need to Exercise More

It may not shock anyone that most Americans aren’t getting enough exercise, but the government’s estimate is probably higher than you thought.

Only 20 percent of adults are exercising enough to meet national guidelines, leaving the rest of Americans with the important task of starting or expanding aerobic and muscle-strengthening routines.

The findings released this month from the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a journal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is especially relevant as risk factors for heart disease – including diabetes, hypertension and obesity – continue to climb nationwide.

The CDC report on exercising is derived from a yearly phone survey of adults over 18.

The U.S. government’s “Physical Activity Guidelines” recommend that adults get at least 2½ hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as walking, or one hour and 15 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, such as jogging, or a combination of both.

The guidelines also suggest that adults do muscle-strengthening activities, such as push-ups, sit-ups, or activities using resistance bands or weights. These exercises should involve all major muscle groups and be done two or more days a week.

What can you do if you don’t get enough exercise?

“Your family doctor can be an excellent starting point for beginning an exercise program,” said Manuel Torres, M.D., a family-practice physician at the Baptist Health Medical Group. “Doctors who specialize in family medicine typically offer a broad range of knowledge about general medicine, including strategies for healthier living, such as exercising and eating a nutritious diet.”

Your regular doctor also knows your overall health and family history.

If you have risk factors –  high blood pressure, high levels of blood cholesterol, are pre-diabetic with a higher propensity for acquiring type 2 diabetes – then an exercise program will likely be part of your treatment.

Getting started can be as easy brisk walking for 30 minutes a day as your primary cardio activity to improve heart health and burn calories. You can then ease into jogging, outside or on a treadmill, or riding a stationary bicycle for a strong aerobic workout.

A well-rounded exercise program should include both aerobic activity and weight-training, Dr. Torres said.  Whether its free weights, bands or machines at the gym, your strength training should include exercises for every major muscle group, including the muscles of the arms, chest, back, stomach, hips and legs.

For best results, weight training should be done at least three times a week, usually providing at least 48 hours rest for each muscle group between workouts.

As the CDC indicates, what to include in your exercise routine is important. But getting started and sticking to a routine is the biggest hurdle for most overweight adults.

This weekend, why not take the first steps to improving your health?


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