Making Family Fitness A Year-Round Event

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September 21, 2015


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Activities at schools, parks, malls, health clubs and other locations serve as a reminder of the importance of regular exercise all-year round.

Physical activity helps improve overall health and reduces your risk for developing many chronic diseases. More and more studies show that people of all ages can benefit from regular exercise. The latest government data finds that the majority of Americans are either overweight or obese and should consult with the doctors on starting an exercise program to help reduce common risk factors — including high cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar — linked to the No. 1 cause of death in the United States: heart disease.

“Our credo is ‘never slow down,’ even for people in their 70s and 80s,” said Mark Caruso, M.D., a primary care physician at Baptist Health Primary Care. “We are a huge proponent of exercise for people of all ages. As you get older, cross training (aerobics and weights) benefits bone health and helps prevent osteoporosis.”

But how much exercise do you need on a regular basis to get and stay healthy? And how much exercise should be devoted to aerobic health and how much to muscle-strengthening?

Guidelines for Physical Activity
The widely accepted guidelines for minimal physical activity for Americans is provided by the American Heart Association (AHA). The AHA recommends:

For overall cardiovascular health:

  • At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days per week for a total of 150 minutes. OR: At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least three days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
  • Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity: At least two days per week for additional health benefits.
  • For lowering blood pressure and cholesterol: An average 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity three or four times per week.

Remember, these are minimal guidelines. Your doctor may recommend building up to a more extensive program. Getting your check-up and consulting with your family physician are the first steps toward formulating an exercise routine.

Dr. Caruso goes beyond the AHA guidelines of five days a week for patients with low HDL (the good cholesterol). HDL cholesterol levels less than 40 mg/dL are considered low. “As the cardio goes, so goes the HDL,” Dr. Caruso said. “I have several people who I have asked to exercise six or seven days a week to nudge that cholesterol up to 40 mg/dL.”

If you’re physically able to exercise and are overweight with risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, most physicians will begin with the minimal standard of exercise recommended by the AHA.

Children and Adolescents
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children and adolescents should complete 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. Aerobic activity should make up most of a child’s daily physical activity. This can include either moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, or vigorous-intensity activity, such as running. Be sure to include vigorous-intensity aerobic activity on at least three days per week. The CDC also recommends muscle-strengthening activities, such as gymnastics or push-ups, at least three days per week as part of your child’s 60 or more minutes.

Older Adults
Regular physical activity is important at any age. It can prevent or diminish many of the health problems that intensify with age. Physical activity helps maintain muscle strength so seniors can perform day-to-day activities without becoming dependent on others. Keep in mind, some physical activity is better than none at all, Dr. Caruso said.

If you’re 65 years of age or older, are generally fit, and have no limiting health conditions you can follow these guidelines, according to the CDC:

  • Two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (for example, brisk walking) every week and;
  • Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

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