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Get Your Exercise Any Way You Can

You may get tired of hearing your primary care doctors in Delray Beach, at Cohen Medical Associates, talk about exercise so often, but there’s a good reason for it: It’s the best thing you can do to remain healthy, or to recover from illness or chronic disease.

Exercise benefits

Here’s just a partial list of the types of disorders that can be alleviated or prevented by regular exercise:

  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • asthma
  • back pain
  • arthritis
  • insomnia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • multiple sclerosis
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • anxiety and depression
  • dementia,
  • gallstones
  • obesity
  • diverticulitis
  • osteoporosis
  • peripheral vascular disease
  • at least eight different types of cancer.

 

In addition, in those who have had transient ischemic attacks, or mini-strokes, exercise has been shown to improve blood flow to the brain and diminish the risk of a full-blown stroke. It can also guard against gestational diabetes and postpartum depression in women as well as falls among the elderly.

Good news for the time-crunched

If you want a “magic bullet” to help you get healthier, there’s no single better method than regular exercise. But we can hear the objections now: “I’m so busy! I can’t be exercising for hours every day!”

Well, if lack of time is the problem, here’s good news for you. This month a committee appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has rescinded the government’s 10-year-old guidelines calling for at least 10 minutes per session of physical activity at a time. The new guidelines, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), now encourage any kind of movement of any kind that can add up to the recommended weekly total of 150 minutes.

Because in a nation that’s become largely desk- or sofa-bound, the medical community is seeking any way it can to get us moving. It’s estimated that approximately 80 percent of Americans are not getting even a minimal amount of exercise daily or even weekly. Recall that our hunter-gatherer ancestors kept moving all day every day; that’s the way our bodies evolved to function best. Even a few generations ago, humans farmed and walked everywhere and washed clothes by hand and beat rugs to clean them. Today, we’re tethered to our cars, smart phones, and “labor-saving” devices and we’re dying as a result.

The panel warned that lack of exercise accounts for 10 percent of all premature deaths in this country and about $117 billion in additional healthcare costs annually.

“Humans were evolved to move, and when you move, all your physiology works better,” Adm. Brett P. Giroir, assistant secretary of health, said in unveiling the guidelines.

Any exercise is better than none

But now, according to the new federal guidelines, housework counts, and you don’t even have to clean rugs with a beater. You can also walk up and down stairs during a commercial break on television or dance vigorously to a favorite tune or walk your dog. If she gets away from you and you have to chase her down, so much the better. If you just bought a plant that you need to dig a quick hole for in your garden, that counts; no need to rake up every leaf in the yard, although that counts, too.

According to the new guidelines, “All activities count. Bouts [of exercise] of any length contribute to the health benefits associated with the accumulated volume of physical activity.”

The idea is, any activity is better than the next-to-none most of us engage in these days. Ideally, the recommendations call for 150 minutes per week of “moderate-to-vigorous” physical activity, and muscle-strengthening activities two days each week. The latter can include, for instance, push-ups, squats, using hand or ankle weights as you walk, or just working with light hand weights for half-an-hour while watching TV.

And for the first time, the guidelines include recommendations designed to encourage children ages three to five to move more, including participating in throwing games, bicycle or tricycle riding, hopping, skipping, jumping, and tumbling, for up to three hours per day.

“Sit less, move more. Whatever you do, it really all counts,” Giroir told The Washington Post.

Of course, you can’t go from couch potato to champion athlete overnight. The key is to gradually increase your activities until they become part of your lifestyle. And if you already have such chronic conditions as arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease, let us help guide you toward the best way of introducing more healthful movement into your life.

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