Movement is Medicine: How much is enough?
In last week’s article the words exercise, and exertion were turned around and physical activity and movement as more appealing ideas were presented. We discussed why physical activity is important, the benefits of movement and what counts as movement or activity. This week let’s see how much exercise is enough.
Based on last week’s article, how hard a movement is can be divided into light intensity activity, moderate intensity activity, or vigorous activity.
What level do you have to move to have it bring health benefits? These benefits include things such as reduced feelings of anxiety, reduced blood pressure, increased cardiorespiratory fitness, increased muscular strength, a decrease in depressive symptoms, and sustained reduction in blood pressure, insulin regulation, to name a few.
Levels of Physical Activity
It helps to classify the categories of physical activity to help quantify how movement can provide the health benefits listed above. The focus on increasing levels of movement are not to suggest that other types of activity, such as muscle strengthening, are less important.
- Inactive is not getting any moderate or vigorous-intensity physical activity beyond basic movement from daily life activities. Examples: Doing the laundry, making the bed, or washing dishes, but nothing more vigorous.
- Insufficiently active is doing some moderate or vigorous-intensity physical activity but less than 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity or the equivalent combination. Walking briskly once or twice a week for 30 minutes is great but would not be active enough to bring you the health benefits needed.
- Active is doing the equivalent of 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week. This level meets the key guideline target range for adults. You walk your dog, or with your kids briskly four days a week for 30 minutes, garden for one hour on another day would be 220 minutes in the week. That would meet the active movement category.
- Highly active is doing the equivalent of more than 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week. This level exceeds the key guideline target range for adults. You seek out movement most days of the week, running, bootcamp class, kayaking, skiing.
Sedentary behavior refers to putting out little or no energy. This type of behavior has received more attention over the last 10-12 years as Americans have begun to move less and sit more. There is a direct link between sedentary behavior and cardiovascular disease. There is a link between this behavior and dying younger too. We are all sedentary at different points of our day. Relaxing, watching T.V. working at our desks, reading, or chatting with family and friends. Being sedentary isn’t a problem in of itself. It is when the time we are sedentary increases and little time is spent doing any kind of movement and avoiding the intensity that is needed for better health. Balance is the key here. If you have an office job or spend hours on your computer at home, it is important that you increase your activity AND how hard you work at that activity. Taking walk breaks, stretch breaks, movement breaks during your day is important. For every 30 minutes spent sitting at a desk, or in a chair, think about getting up and moving around. This would be in addition to regular physical activity at the moderate to vigorous level most days of the week. Doing this will help to increase overall health and help us to live healthy, more comfortable and longer lives.
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) puts out Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which has great information and education regarding physical activity. The following has been taken from that.
Merriam-Webster. (2020). Retrieved from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exercise
Physical activity guidelines for Americans. 2nd edition. (2018). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from: https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf
Submitted by Katesel Strimbeck PT, MS, MHA. Katesel has been a PT for 22 years, she is Director of Rehabilitation Services at North Country Hospital, and a member of the American Physical Therapy Association.