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12 Days of Fitness 2020: Day 12 – Three Reasons Why Physical Activity Should Be a Family Routine

(This is part 12 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

The second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans was released in late 2018. The new guidelines reiterate best practices for physical activity and shed light on new research findings related to physical activity’s impact on growth and development, sleep quality, brain health and much more. Here’s the bottom line: Physical activity improves health during all stages of life and is good for the entire family. Read on for three reasons why physical activity should be a family routine.

Family Physical Activity Models Positive Health Behaviors for Children.

Developing positive physical activity habits is like any other behavior—we learn by observing. Parents are children’s first role models and have the ability to shape attitudes about physical activity. When children adopt healthy physical-activity habits, they benefit not only in youth, but as teenagers and adults. A 21-year tracking study found that high levels of physical activity between the ages of nine and 18 predicted higher levels of physical activity in adulthood. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that parents not only participate in physical activity with their children but also facilitate environments that encourage self-directed physical activity. For example, parents can place equipment such as balls and jump ropes near doors and play areas. Additionally, parents can help kids to form healthy habits by limiting screen time, focusing on enjoyment (rather than competition) and by working with school officials and other caregivers to ensure that active playtime is encouraged even when children are not at home.

Families That Move Together Build Stronger Social Bonds.

Social bonds describe the level of closeness we have with our family members, friends and other people we interact with every day such as coworkers and schoolmates. Our social ties impact several dimensions of our personal wellness, such as physical, emotional and mental well-being. Strong social ties not only affect the quality of our lives, they are linked to longer life expectancy as well. Healthy social bonds develop over time. Making physical activity a family affair can provide protected time for family members to share joys and frustrations about their day, which is important in building trust and a sense of closeness. Furthermore, when families complete an exercise or physical-activity goal together—whether running a 5K or simply taking a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood—they get to enjoy a shared sense of accomplishment. These shared experiences strengthen family social bonds.  

Families That Move Together are More Likely to Meet Physical-Activity Guidelines

Only 24% of children between the ages of 6 and 17 get the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity, and less than 23% of adults meet the physical-activity guidelines for aerobic exercise and muscle-strengthening activities. Social support, however, has been recognized as a determinant of physical activity for decades, and can be measured in several different ways:

  • Emotional support is the act of offering empathy, concern or encouragement. This type of social support lets other people know that they are valued and that their efforts toward becoming more physically active, whether big or small, matter.
  • Tangible support occurs when goods or services are provided for another person, such as providing free childcare services for an hour so that a friend can go to the gym.
  • Informational support is the provision of guidance, advice or some other form of useful information. A qualified health and exercise professional providing a free 30-minute fitness consultation is an example of informational support.
  • Companionship support is seen when two or more individuals participate in shared social activities.

All forms of social support are beneficial in health behavior change, but a study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology revealed that companionship and emotional support are key in encouraging exercise participation. Subjects in the study who exercised with at least one partner who could provide emotional support increased both self-efficacy for exercise and frequency of exercise sessions.

If you are at the beginning of your family health and fitness journey, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Try to keep family fitness activities simple. Select activities that everyone will enjoy and ones that do not require advanced sport skills.
  • Get outside. Hiking, walking and biking are all great ideas.
  • Get behind a cause. Consider training for a local 5K or some other event tied to a cause important to your family.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

Best Wishes to You and Your Families for a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season and New Year!

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – 7 Ways to Stop Overeating Forever
Day #2Sleep Facts That May Surprise You
Day #3 – Why Losing Weight Through Exercise is Hard
Day #4 – You Are Never Too Old to Exercise
Day #5 – 6 Ways to Adopting a New Habit
Day #6 – The Real Science Behind Fascia
Day #7 – 5 Ways to Improve Eating Habits Without Counting Calories

Day #8 – How Age Affects Workout Recovery
Day #9 – Fitness and Nutrition Tips From the Healthiest Countries
Day #10 – 5 Bodyweight Exercises That You Can Do Right Now
Day #11 – How Exercise May Fight Aging

12 Days of Fitness 2020: Day 4 – You Are Never Too Old to Exercise

(This is part 4 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

I hear it all the time. “I’m too old to start exercising now.” “When you get to me my age, you’ll see.” As often as I hear it, I understand these statements to be more like myths than truths. It was once thought that once you reach a certain age all physical work is to stop. Contrary to those myths, you can actually improve your physical well-being in your older adult years even if you’ve never exercised before.

Age vs. Movement

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests adults do at least two-and-a-half to five hours a week of moderate-intensity activity. Not too bad. In addition, focusing on the postural alignment of the body may also help to start feeling better and moving with confidence. Proper postural alignment helps with everything from cardiovascular health to relieving joint pain and arthritis. When we’re young and continuing that habit throughout life it improves our health and decreases the chances of death. But a recent study found the same is true for adults who start exercising later in life. According to the study’s authors, “Although long-term participation in physical activity may be important to lower mortality risk, the present study provides evidence that becoming physically active later in adulthood (40-61 years of age) may provide comparable health benefits.” Other scientific studies have uncovered similar conclusions, including the fact that exercise programs for sedentary middle-aged adults can help to decrease the risk of heart disease  Now that you understand that exercise can help you turn around your health at any age, the next step is figuring out what activities you enjoy and will stick with over the long term.

A Change of Heart..and Mind

Starting exercise later in life requires that you find more meaning in why you’re moving. For example, can you transition from standing, down to the floor, and back up again easily? How do you feel when you get out of your car? Do you feel sluggish when you’ve been sitting for a long period of time? Ask yourself these questions and start to reshape your fitness goals to enhance your day-to-day functions in life and the confidence you have in your body. Choose activities that you enjoy, which will make it much easier for you to stick with your exercise routine. Get your family involved by going on a hike or a walk around the neighborhood. Dance with your grandkids in the kitchen, play a game of pickleball with friends or go for a swim at your nearby gym. Willpower will only get you so far, so find a way to make exercise a new routine for your daily life. Reward yourself for exercising so you’re motivated to do it again.

The bottom line: The earlier you start the better, so start today.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

See you Monday for Day 5 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – 7 Ways to Stop Overeating Forever
Day #2Sleep Facts That May Surprise You
Day #3 – Why Losing Weight Through Exercise is Hard

How Much Should I Exercise?

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, we need 150 minutes of exercise per week, which can be met by either doing 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity 5 times per week or 20-60 minutes of vigorous activity 3 times per week. It should be noted that this time is above and beyond activities of everyday living. It should also be noted that these recommendations are the minimum, meaning most likely you need more. 150 minutes is 2 and a half hours – just two and a half hours of your week dedicated minimally to exercise. So, do you think you exercise enough? I sincerely beg to differ.

Numbers Don’t Lie

Let’s just say for example that you are able to regularly and consistently meet these minimum requirements. Many aspects of your health would reflect that dedication: maintainable weight, controlled blood pressure, improved blood lipid profiles, increased energy, increased stamina, and on and on. There is not one single bad element to regular and consistent exercise, even at the minimal level. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Consider,

• Less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day.
• Only one in three adults perform the recommended amount of physical activity each week.
• More than 80% of adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities, and more than 80% of adolescents do not do enough aerobic physical activity to meet the guidelines for youth.
• The national average for regular exercise is 51.6%.
• 28.0% of Americans, or 80.2 million people, age six and older are physically inactive.

Think there’s a problem? You bet.

• Data from 2009-2010 indicates that over 78 million U.S. adults and about 12.5 million (16.9%) children and adolescents are obese.
• Recent reports project that by 2030, half of all adults (115 million adults) in the United States will be obese.
• Obesity-related illness, including chronic disease, disability, and death, is estimated to carry an annual cost of $190.2 billion.
• Projections estimate that by 2018, obesity will cost the U.S. 21 percent of our total healthcare costs – $344 billion annually.

What Can You Do?

Aside from exercising? Exercise more! It really is that simple and the sad truth is that all of this is preventable! Every single person has the ability to not only make an individual difference but a global difference. We worry about countries warring, climates changing, offending people, yet the biggest war is the one we’re losing – our health! We are given one body, one attempt at living a healthy life. It’s not a guarantee but the chances are greatly in your favor if you take care of what needs to be taken care of. That does not include being medicated to handle things that are already in your control. You were always in control until you decided to stop or never started taking care of yourself.

Make Exercise a Priority

The problem with many is that they simply don’t make the time to exercise. They think about it but it gets quickly brushed aside for other “distractions”. And know that ALL excuses are invalid. May be some days 20 minutes is all you have to give. Much better to do whatever it is you can and make more time a priority another day. Falling into a cycle of less and less or erratic exercise does not count as getting exercise. It simply demonstrates the lack of dedication to something that should be automatic. So how much should you exercise? More than you think.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

12 Days of Fitness 2014: Day 10 – Sitting Worse Than Previously Thought

(This is Part 10 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

seating-for-longIt isn’t exactly rocket science but we know that a sedentary lifestyle is not that conducive to a healthy lifestyle. A few years ago more research was coming out proving that theory to not only be true but to have more costly effects on our health. In present day 2014, more and more research has come forth indicating that not only is sitting detrimental to our health but that the amount of exercise one does may not even be enough to offset the negative effects of sitting. Kind of makes you want to get up and get your ass moving!

Sat Statistics

It is estimated that the average American sits 9.3 hours a day. A Nielsen company reports that the average American watches five hours of television during that same day, while other studies show that most Americans spend additional hours driving, internet surfing, texting, app game playing, etc. Those who live a sedentary lifestyle have often been referred to as couch potatoes. But for those that stay reasonably fit and active (3-5 days per week, approx. an hour each time) but still spend a considerable amount of their day sitting have been labeled by Nancy Clark, director of nutrition services at SportsMedicine Associates as “sedentary athletes”. Does that mean that you need to be active 24/7/365? No, but thinking that just because you exercise, whatever frequency that may be, warrants lots of “down time” could be like spinning wheels.

Compelling Research

A study by Australian researchers led by Dr. Geraldine Healy, research fellow at the Heart and Diabetes Institute at the University of Queensland, determined that longer than average bouts of sitting and lying down (independent of the total per diem veg-out time) are associated with a higher percentage of body fat, in women—although, curiously, not men. In the researchers’ words, “These findings provide preliminary evidence on the potential importance for human health of avoiding prolonged periods of being sedentary, independent of physical activity. [They] support findings from studies of the metabolic consequences of television viewing time.” Additional studies conducted by Healy’s team, Dr. David Levine and his fellow Mayo Clinic researchers, plus others, all come to the same conclusion, regardless of gender. Low levels of non-exercise activity thermogenesis (what Levine calls “NEAT”), or how much energy is burned from all physical activities “other than volitional sporting-like exercise” such as playing with kids, manual labor and dancing—are the source of America’s obesity epidemic. Other studies by Healy have shown that high TV watching and sitting time greatly corresponds to metabolic syndrome, the cocktail of disorders—including larger waist sizes, and increased triglyceride and blood glucose levels—that increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. And a 2010 study revealed that high TV time—independent of exercise—was associated with a higher risk of premature cardiovascular disease mortality. In other words, no matter how hard someone may work out, too much channel surfing can shorten his or her life.

Is It Really Just Sitting That’s The Cause of An Epidemic?

Not all the experts agree. Dr. David Nieman, a professor of health and exercise science at Appalachian State University in Kannapolis, N.C., says, “[Healy’s] studies are interesting, but it’s going to take a lot more evidence to be convincing. I feel ultimately they will be discredited due to their small sample size.” (The latest Australian study used only about 100 subjects.) As Levine puts it, we live in “a chair-enticing environment and sitting is not something for which humans are built, evolutionarily speaking”. Sitting weakens your joints, decreases metabolic rate and perpetuates fatigue and poor posture, often contributing to back pain.

And objectively speaking, says Holtorf, it may not matter how much or intensely we exercise. “It’s what the body perceives us as doing, and the body is historically more used to constant motion. Besides, the average person on the Stairmaster doesn’t really burn that many calories in an hour.”  Healy lays out the lamentable facts: “Even lean individuals store at least two to three months of their energy needs in adipose tissue, whereas obese persons can carry a year’s worth of their energy needs. Obesity is the cumulative impact of energy imbalance over months and years.”

Further complicating the picture, adds Holtorf, is the fact that our “catabolic mode”—or the rate at which we burn calories—depends on many factors, including our previous fitness level, genetics, even our previous dieting history. “One study showed that people who have dieted and lost weight had a 25 percent lower metabolic rate than others of the same age, body fat and weight. Other studies have revealed that women who over-exercise and diet also have a [s]lower metabolism. Dieting and overtraining can shift the body into starvation mode.”

Taking a Whole-Day Approach to Physical Activity

Healey believes the key to attaining that state is to take a “whole day” approach to physical activity and try to incorporate movement across the day, not just when you hit the running track or bike trail. “Since incidental movements make up the bulk of energy expenditure for the average person, every little bit helps. Office workers can stand while on the phone, walk to see a colleague down the hall and take the stairs instead of the elevator.” She also suggests incorporating less-expensive technologies such as using height-adjustable desks and moving bins and printers to central locations.

It is important, Holtorf argues, to develop a consistent routine. “In your 15-minute work break, do intensive exercise using a pull-up bar or light weights. This is better than taking a ‘brisk’ walk, which the body may not perceive as physiological stress.” Other ideas: Pace while making phone calls. One source suggested introducing walking treadmills for office workers, but that may be both logistically risky and financially prohibitory to accomplish on a large scale. But stability ball chairs are doable. Plus, people can bike to work, cities can build more greenways, politicians can recommend closing off downtown areas to traffic (as Mayor Bloomberg has in New York City), and, of course, educators can put physical education back into the school curriculum. “Exercise has been engineered out of our lives,” explains Levine, “and we have to re-engineer our work, school and home environments to render active living the option of choice.”

New research implies that even if people are physically fit, long, uninterrupted periods of sedentary behavior are bad for their health. This extended sloth can cause what scientists call “detrimental metabolic effects.” That is, it may mitigate, if not erase, the benefits of exercise and lead to a state labeled “couch potato fitness.”

See you tomorrow for Day 11 of the 12 Days of Fitness


Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.



The 12 Days of Fitness – Day 7 – The Difference Between Exercise and Physical Activity

92835652Yes, you read that correctly.  “But I thought they were one in the same?” Well, technically, yes.  However, I’m here today to communicate the difference between what most consider body changing, health improving, body fat reducing exercise and physical activity.

What’s the Confusion?

A few years back, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) published new Guidelines for Physical Activity.  In that list were your standard exercises, like walking, biking, strength training, etc. Then they went as far to list gardening and various common housework activities as exercise.  Huh?  When was the last  time you heard of someone with a physique attributed to window cleaning?  Or the Olympic sport of “Taking Out the Trash”? Sound ridiculous, doesn’t it?  You betcha!

Not All Exercise Is Created Equal

Physical activity is a good thing, no doubt about it.  However, often times people will give themselves more credit for getting exercise when in reality they’re moving, yes, but they would have been moving anyway.  The trash doesn’t take out itself; the clothes don’t walk down to the laundry room by themselves; and unless you’re tilling and shoveling acres, chances are gardening is just an up and down activity.  Physical activity but hardly exercise.

What’s Considered Exercise?

Exercise is structured physical activity that is above anything you would normally consider daily activity.  Whether it’s running, walking, cycling, lifting weights, tennis, basketball, paddling, etc., it doesn’t matter so long as it’s something not considered normal daily chores. Ahh hah! There it is.  Exercise IS NOT a chore. (contrary to what your belief is).  There was a time (eons ago) where physical activity was such a way of life that it could have been considered exercise.  Today, exercise is a means of replacing all of the physical activity we have deleted from our lives.

So get out and move.  And whatever your goal, know that there’s an appropriate exercise discipline and modality out there.  Just understand that it’s not a one size fits all approach and taking credit for something you know is just a rationalization for your laziness, is not fooling anyone but yourself.

See you tomorrow for Day 8 of my 12 Days of Fitness.