The importance of staying active
If there’s one thing that Greg Lang, PA-C, a physician assistant with Pulse Heart Institute, wants you to know, it’s that it’s really not that difficult to be active. You probably don’t consider daily household tasks, chores, and errands to be exercise, but much of your daily routine can be categorized as such. While it’s not to say that mowing your lawn is equivalent to going for a run, but activities that increase your heart rate fall into different categories that do qualify as exercise. So props to you for taking the stairs, raking the leaves and washing your car — you’re well on your way to an active day!
Let’s break down what qualifies as exercise. There are essentially two categories for exercise:
- Regular daily activity and purposeful exercise that can be further divided into zone 2 (low intensity)
- High-intensity exercise.
Each category has benefits for your health.
Regular daily exercise includes your daily activities like walking, using stairs, doing household chores, gardening, and other normal tasks. It can be identified by activities that increase your heart rate to 20-30 beats above your resting rate.
Zone 2, sometimes classified as the “fat-burning zone,” is identified by a heart rate of 180 minus your age. So for an average 30-year-old adult, this zone would encompass a heart rate around 150 beats per minute. It’s a good approach to have most of your activity fall into this zone, as you will get the most benefit for the most amount of time here.
High-intensity exercise is approaching your maximum heart rate. It's exercise that is not sustainable for long periods of time and causes you to become fatigued.If you’re looking to engage in more purposeful exercise, try starting out by aiming for 3 times per week for 30 minutes each session. Once you’re used to that activity load, try increasing it to 5 times per week. Interestingly enough, age doesn’t play a huge factor into purposeful exercise. No matter your age, it’s never too late to start engaging in purposeful exercise! Whether it’s working on stability, balance, increasing muscle mass, or endurance, there are always benefits to getting out and being active.
We’re busy, you’re busy, Lang is busy. In our hectic schedules, carving out time each day to work out can seem daunting. Luckily, there are easy ways to increase your normal physical activity through actions you do on a daily basis. Some examples are:
Always choose taking the stairs over an elevator or escalator
Park in the furthest parking space from the building
If you’re working in an office, go to a different floor to use the restroom
Go for a walk during a phone call
Stand up and walk around for five minutes every hour while working
Walk every isle in the grocery store, then go get your cart and begin shopping
Jump on and off a curb 10 times each time you approach one on a walk
Walk backwards up hills to engage different muscles than walking normally does
Wearables, such as a Fitbit, Apple Watch, or other heart rate monitors can be a great way to monitor your activity, heart rate, and motivate you to get active. They can also help people from overtraining, as many wearables can help monitor your sleep; one of the best indicators of overtraining is poor sleep and elevated resting heart rates.
Wearables can also help with consistency because, let’s face it, we all struggle with sticking with a workout plan from time to time. Setting goals such as “I want to get 1,000 more steps in than I did yesterday” or “I want to be active for 45 minutes each day this week” can help you get moving as well. Lang uses the app Pai Health to monitor his personal activity. The app links to a wearable and gives you a score each day, which can be used for motivation, goal setting, and provides an extra reinforcement to get out and get active.
Lang says that there are countless benefits to daily exercise. These include reducing your waist circumference; stimulating your muscle cells to be more responsive to insulin and controlling your blood sugar levels; decreasing the risk of developing dementia; and reducing the risk of cancer. Regular exercise can also reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
A final thought from Lang: “People love to find excuses like ‘it’s too cold’ or ‘it’s too hot’ when considering working out. I encourage people to embrace the weather instead of letting it be a deterrent."
If it’s cold, throw on an extra layer or two. If it’s hot, make sure to stay hydrated and use sun protection. Living in the Inland Northwest, our weather can be somewhat unpredictable, but instead of blaming your lack of activity on the weather, get out and embrace it!
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