With the technological advancements of our western modernization, we have moved to a chair-based society that now comes with this warning: Prolonged sitting and physical inactivity cause chronic disease and premature death. With this realization physicians and exercise professionals all over the world are taking steps to providing the right prescription for prevention — exercise.
Exercise is medicine that provides an immediate response, such as reducing blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. It can also provide other benefits, such as reduced stress, improved moods, reduction of body fat, and protection from eight different cancers. So, if exercise is medicine, what is considered the proper dosage?
The most common exercise prescription is 30 minutes of physical activity, five days per week, for a total of 150 minutes a week. We all have different schedules and needs, but the good news is exercise is flexible, and anyone can get the health results they desire without letting their schedule get in the way. By splitting the recommended dose into three, ten-minute segments each day, you can easily take your medicine for lasting results.
One great way to start moving is by maximizing everyday activities, such as work breaks, chores around the house, virtual groups through devices like Fitbit, walking groups, or other activities that get you moving at a moderate intensity. In fact, most of us can agree that vacuuming can take a moderate amount of effort, and if done continuously for 10 minutes, would certainly count as exercise. Getting results requires effort, but effort can be as simple as a brisk walk. These are great ways to incorporate “informal” ways of exercising.
When designing a “formal” exercise program such as a daily walking routine, there are three key factors to consider to get the health results you want: Frequency, time and intensity. Adjusting any or all of these factors will result in improved health. Let’s go through a quick example to show the progression.
Say you started with walking for 30 minutes a day, three days a week, and want to change your routine to get better results. First, you would increase frequency by going from three days a week to five days a week. Once you’ve successfully done that, you would add more time — adding 2 – 5 minutes of exercise to each day you walk is a reasonable increase for success and will help you advance your goal.
Once you’ve increased frequency and time, all that’s left is to increase intensity. For a walking program, you can either increase your speed or, if on a treadmill, your incline. By increasing your speed, you’ll be walking a farther distance in the same amount of time. When you increase your incline on a treadmill, you’re increasing the difficulty of walking the same amount of distance for the same amount of time. Both methods will increase your heart rate and set off a hormonal cascade, which increases your metabolism for additional hours of calorie burn long after you’ve completed your walk.
Bottom line, exercise is more than a tool for weight loss and should be looked upon as the “one pill cure all” for lifelong prevention of chronic disease. The right dose for most people is as little as three, 10-minute segments most days of the week. Adventist Health Fitness and our team of exercise physiologists and trainers are here for you to prescribe a safe and effective exercise prescription. Get moving today!
By Kevin Vondergeest | Wellness Coordinator| ACSM EP -C, Adventist Health Lodi Memorial