Increasing Physical Activity to Manage Weight
Because two-thirds of Americans are overweight, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has also published physical activity guidelines focusing on weight management. These guidelines recognize that for people who need to prevent weight gain, lose weight, or maintain weight loss, 150 minutes per week of physical activity may not be enough. Instead, they recommend up to 90 minutes of physical activity per day.
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Unfortunately, exercise alone will seldom promote long-term weight loss; but exercise has many health benefits, even in the absence of substantial weight loss. Exercising to Improve Physical Fitness As mentioned earlier, moderate physical activity confers significant health and wellness benefits, especially for those who are currently sedentary and become moderately active. However, people can obtain even greater health and wellness benefits by increasing the duration and intensity of physical activity. With increased activity, they will see more improvements in quality of life and greater reductions in disease and mortality risk.
More vigorous activity, as in a structured, systematic exercise program, also improves physical fitness. Moderate physical activity alone is not enough. Physical fitness requires more intense movement that poses a substantially greater challenge to the body. The American College of Sports Medicine issued guidelines in 2011 for creating a formal exercise program that will develop physical fitness. These guidelines are described in detail later in the chapter.
How Much Physical Activity Is Enough?
Some experts feel that people get most of the health benefits of physical activity simply by becoming more active over the course of the day; the amount of activity needed depends on an individual’s health status and goals. Other experts feel that leisure-time physical activity is not enough; they argue that people should exercise long enough and intensely enough to improve the body’s capacity for exercise that is, to improve physical fitness. There is probably some truth in both of these positions.
Regular physical activity, regardless of the intensity, makes you healthier and can help protect you from many chronic diseases. Although you get many of the health benefits of exercise simply by being more active, you obtain even more benefits when you are physically fit. In addition to long-term health benefits, fitness also contributes significantly to quality of life. Fitness can give you freedom to move your body the way you want. Fit people have more energy and better body control. They can enjoy a more active lifestyle than their more sedentary counterparts. Even if you don’t like sports, you need physical energy and stamina in your daily life and for many non-sport leisure activities such as visiting museums, playing with children, and gardening.
Where does this leave you? Most experts agree that some physical activity is better than none, but that more as long as it does not result in injury is better than some. To set a personal goal for physical activity and exercise, consider your current activity level, your health status, and your overall goals. At the very least, strive to become more active and do 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least five days per week. Choose to be active whenever you can. If weight management is a concern for you, begin by achieving the goal of 30 minutes of activity per day and then try.
Do you set aside blocks of time every day for studying? If so, your schedule probably makes it easier to get your work done. The same is true of exercising, so make it a part of your daily routine, like studying. To raise your activity level further, to 60-90 minutes per day or more. For even better health and well-being, participate in a structured exercise program that develops physical fitness. Any increase in physical activity will contribute to your health and well-being, now and in the future.