Regular physical activity is the closest thing to the “magic bullet” for guarding the health and vitality of both your brain and your body.
The benefits are almost too numerous to count. However, you must understand that we now know the human body and brain require a certain threshold amount of physical activity daily to avoid chronic disease and remain in good working order. In other words, if you don’t do it, you are guaranteed to lose your health, including your brain health. It is as simple as that.
- Strive for at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) five days a week or 45 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (ex: jogging) three days a week. As the optimum – engage in moderate aerobic activity five hours a week or vigorous aerobic activity 2.5 hours a week.
- Aim for resistance activity/muscle strengthening activities like yoga, bands, Pilates or weights at least two days a week, especially for those older than 50.
- Check with your health care provider before exercising if you have any cardiovascular risk factors or chronic medical problems.
- Ideally, strive to get up and move around at least two to three minutes for every hour that you must be seated. Studies show that the cardio-metabolic benefits of movement kick in within 30 seconds. Light activity, like walking to the restroom, helps significantly. Simply standing up is also beneficial. As the ideal, strive to limit the total amount you sit in one day to four hours or less. The most important time to avoid prolonged sitting is immediately after meals.
- Choose a form of exercise that you like and that fits your lifestyle. Some good options for most people include brisk walking, swimming, cycling or taking advantage of fitness classes or fitness machines in a nearby gym or YMCA.
- If you need to, don’t be afraid to start with something much less intense – like slow walking even a block or two, or down your driveway and back. Even marathon runners begin somewhere and every little bit helps.
In addition to movement as noted above, you must also avoid prolonged sitting. Regardless of your weight, health status or physical activity level, sitting for extended periods significantly boosts your risk of cardio-metabolic diseases and death.
If exercise is new for you, remember that it can take up to six months for it to become a habit. Be patient, yet dogged in your daily pursuits. Eventually, regular exercise will become an automatic behavior just like brushing your teeth, and that is when you know you are home free.
If the idea of regular exercise just doesn’t sit right with you, an alternative is to engage often in lifestyle movement over the day. Examples include sweeping your floors, going up and down steps, raking leaves, shopping on foot, etc.
As phenomenal as the benefits of exercise are, they are very short-lived. To reap its rewards, you must do it regularly and forever.
Always consult with your health care provider for an appropriate physical evaluation prior to embarking on any exercise regimen.
Dr. Ann Kulze is founder and CEO of Just Wellness and has a knack for breaking down the science of healthy eating and living into simple and easily digestible messages. She has been featured on “Dr. Oz,” “Oprah and Friends,” WebMD and U.S. News & World Report. Alabama NewsCenter is publishing advice from Dr. Ann.