When it comes to the benefits of staying active — including a sharper mind, stronger body and a longer life — every little bit counts. The latest federal recommendations say adults need at least two and a half hours of activity each week, but there’s more flexibility on how we can get it.
Whether it’s for a minute or an hour, any movement is good movement.
“The number one thing is to incorporate fitness as a regular habit,” said Dustin Adams, CPT, a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor at the Center for Health and Wellness at AdventHealth Daytona Beach. His tips for incorporating movement into your everyday routine include:
- Park farther away: While most of us seek out the spot closest to the entrance, consider parking way in back on purpose to give yourself a reason to walk.
- Get dusting: For the most part, if you’re cleaning, you’re moving. If you need an excuse to tidy up, think of it as exercise.
- Choose the stairs: This piece of time-tested advice is still good today. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator will give you a mini-workout.
- Make time to stand: If you spend most of your time seated, take some breaks to walk. If you can, try standing or sitting on an exercise ball at work.
- Find a hobby to get moving: Whether it’s dancing, gardening, hiking or something else, a pleasure activity can double as an exercise.
In some ways, it’s simple: Almost any activity that raises your heart rate is good for your health.
“People think they need to hit a treadmill but all you have to do is move around,” Adams says.
That said, getting moving is simple but not easy. Even after decades of studies and exercise advocacy, about 80 percent of adult Americans don’t meet guidelines for physical activity.
As a competitive powerlifter, Adams himself is often motivated by personal improvement. That can also work to help people start getting active, but the negative news — the consequences of inactivity — works, too.
“Sometimes I have to give people a reality check,” he says. “There’s no longer any doubt about the problems that inactivity can cause.”
On the other hand, being active can reduce your risk for:
- Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Many types of cancer, including bladder, breast, colon, kidney, lung and stomach
Progress is Motivation
Looking back on his own life, Adams says the idea of making visible progress has been the biggest motivator. He said he entered 9th grade weighing 86 pounds and “got bullied like the dickens.”
So he hit the books, researching nutrition and exercise, and the gym. By the time he graduated, he wasn’t the same skinny child who’d entered high school.
In order to set realistic expectations, Adams says to wait about three months before you expect results. And he’s not just talking about the scale.
“Sometimes, weight stays the same but the waistline trims down because muscle takes up less space than fat,” he says.
Helping Kids Play
The new guidelines for the first time include recommendations on physical activity for preschool-aged children. Though there’s no time recommendation, kids ages 3 to 5 should “be physically active throughout the day to enhance growth and development.”
One simple way to help kids be active is to take them to a playground, Adams says. As any adult who’s tried them knows, the monkey bars are quite the workout.
Sitting is the New Smoking
First, it’s worth noting that this isn’t literally true — smoking causes far more damage to your health than sitting. But this phrase has gained traction as a reminder that inactivity can harm your health.
More Americans are spending their workdays seated, usually at a computer. Workers in the U.S. burn about 140 fewer calories a day on average compared with workers in 1960. That’s about a pound of weight per month of workdays.
Sitting is different than smoking in that you can take relatively simple steps to reverse the damage, including 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
Because AdventHealth’s care philosophy is focused on the mind and spirit as well as the body, activity is seen as a core part of whole-person health. The Center for Health and Wellness at AdventHealth Daytona Beach offers advanced wellness services including group fitness, personal training and massage therapy.