Getting Fit


How much physical activity do we need to improve our health?

by Jody Ginther

To maintain or improve your health depends upon where you are now. Jackie Chan requires at least 2 hours per day for maintenance and more if he wants to improve. If you are a serious athlete you only need to know that you need to increase the time and efficiency of your workouts to get better. You must also improve and plan your rest intervals and nutrition carefully. If you are a common person who just wants to maintain or improve your health you can begin by reading this article and looking at guidelines recommended by government health sites like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to these guidelines, if you are a normally healthy adult from 18 to 64 years old you can maintain a healthy lifestyle by integrating the following ideas into your daily life.

To maintain or improve your health, you need to work on at least two primary systems in your body. You need to keep your cardiovascular system. You also need to keep your bones and muscles healthy and flexible to prevent injury.

Your cardiovascular system can only be strengthened by using it. That means you have to get your heart pumping faster for at least a certain length of time for improvement. It is best to consult your doctor on how fast and how long for your particular situation. However, some guidelines will be presented here.

Muscles, bones, and joints are the same. They are only strengthened or maintained through use and weight bearing activities. Hard physical work can often replace weight lifting activities, but you must keep in mind that if a muscle workout is not planned, you may only be working with certain muscle groups and neglecting others.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following:

Exercise for minimum activity, Plan A:

2 1/2 hours, (150 minutes), of moderate aerobic activity every week. (Like fast walking, bike riding, table tennis, etc.) Do something to strengthen bones and muscles by working on all major muscle groups on two days per week. (Like lifting weights, calisthenics like push ups and sit ups, resistance band exercises or weight bearing work like shoveling.)

If you are busy you can break these down into smaller work-outs. As long as you do it at least ten minutes each time you exercise. For example; 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity could be done in 15 different 10 minute sessions. This method will improve or maintain your health but generally not speed up your metabolism.

If you are healthy, you can shorten the minimum time required by increasing the intensity.

Exercise for moderate activity, Plan B:

1 hour and 15 minutes, (75 minutes), of moderate aerobic activity, (like jogging, moderate aerobics, riding bike up a few hills or faster, etc.) Weight bearing activities on 2 days per week.

Exercise for vigorous activity, Plan C:

45 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, (like running, fast aerobics, fast basketball, or any activity that gets your heart rate going faster). How fast and how long, is best determined by a doctor or personal trainer.

If you are in good health and your doctor approves, you can double the above recommendations for better results.

Remember to choose the time and intensity depending upon these things: Are you planning for maintenance or improvement? What is your present state of health? How much time do you have each week? How fast do you want to achieve your goals?

Other considerations:

To truly loose weight for the long run you need to either create a new lifestyle of more activity in your daily life with less food, or increase your rate of metabolism. This topic will be covered in detail in future article. In a nutshell, it involves raising your heart rate to a specific level and maintaining that heart rate for a specific length of time for at least 3 or 4 times per week.

If you have an injury or disability or have been inactive for a long time, you need to begin more slowly and seek professional assistance to create the best exercise plan for your body. A daily or regular consistent schedule is the key. Make activity your habit. As an old Chinese Kung Fu master and Doctor of Chinese medicine once told me; “Movement is life. The more movement, the more life; the less movement the closer you are to death.” Add more movement to your life.