A few minutes a day can add years to your life, and life to your years.
Newsflash: Doctors announce miracle cure!
Get smarter. Sleep better. Live longer.
And it works for everybody. Men. Women. Children. No matter how young or old.
That’s right. You, too.
“Some health benefits begin immediately after exercising and even short episodes or small amounts of physical activity are beneficial,” according to no less an authority than the American Medical Association. “In addition, research shows that virtually everyone benefits.”
You’ve got to move it. Move it.
Yes, exercise. But that doesn’t mean running marathons, or pumping iron six hours a day. Unless you want to. We’re talking about sitting less, moving more, and picking up something heavier than a smart phone a couple of times a week.
To get the most benefit, the AMA’s new Physical Activity Guidelines say adults should do, on average, 150 minutes or more of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, spread out over the week — say, 30 minutes-a-day over five days. Plus some kind of muscle strengthening two times a week.
Also, you can say goodbye to that “I don’t have time” excuse. You don’t even have to do the daily 30 minutes all at once, says Dr. Thomas Best, a family medicine-sports medicine expert with the University of Miami Sports Medicine Institute and team physician for the University of Miami Hurricanes and the Miami Marlins.
“Breaking that up into say, three 10-minute sessions is probably almost as effective.”
The choice is yours
It’s all about finding what’s right for you: a brisk walk, gardening, swimming, running a 10k — you name it, as long as it gets your heart rate up to where you can’t sing the “Star Spangled Banner” while you’re doing it. (Even if you knew all the words.)
And the beauty of it is, no matter what kind of cardio activity you choose, mixed with some kind of strength training, and the science says you will get all those benefits we mentioned up top — including improved cognitive ability. No matter if you’re 3, 30, or three times 30.
The biggest change in the guidelines is the emphasis on strength training of the major muscle groups of the arms and legs, says Dr. Best. That’s because doctors are recognizing how it can help offset the natural loss of muscle mass, which will help you now and later, helping prevent falls, among other things.
“Strength training, from an overall health perspective, has probably been under-recognized and under-appreciated,” he says, “because when you start thinking about things like falls and things like that, it’s not how fast you can walk a mile, right? It’s do you have the strength, balance, and agility to not fall. So, that’s huge.”
Every step you take, every move you make.
And, if that “weekly dose of exercise” is too much for you, Dr. Best says, do as much as you can.
“Certainly, some is better than none,” he says. “So even if you can’t meet that 150 (minutes), which is roughly optimal for most of us, if you get half of that you’ll still get some benefit.”
Carlos Harrison is a contributing writer for UMiami Health News. He is a former national and international television correspondent, as well as a newspaper and magazine writer and editor.