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Why is physical activity important?

Physical activity offers a variety of immediate and long-term benefits. Studies have shown emerging evidence on the benefits of moving more and sitting less and the risks associated with sedentary lifestyles.

Over the past few decades, Americans have become more and more sedentary in conjunction with the rise in technology and computer use. Compared with our parents and grandparents, we as a society are spending considerably more time sitting at work, at home, at school, in cars, and while spending time with others. Per state maps of adults and physical inactivity released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA states and territories had more than 15% of adults who were physically inactive and this estimate ranged from 17.3 to 47.7%, with levels differing by state, region, and race/ethnicity.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans encourages Americans to move more and sit less based on new evidence that shows a strong relationship between increased sedentary behavior and increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and all-cause mortality.

Although physical activity recommendations have been made based on the amount needed to attain the most health benefits, any amount of physical activity has been shown to have some health benefits. Physical activity simply means moving your body in a way that burns calories. Exercise is a subset of physical activity done with the intention of developing physical fitness.

For adults, the guidelines recommend getting at least 150-300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity (such as brisk walking, cycling, or fast dancing) with 2 (non-consecutive) days each week of muscle-strengthening activity (such as lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push-ups). The recommended amount for youth ages 6-17 is 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity. Children ages 3-5 should be encouraged active play (light, moderate, or vigorous intensity) and aim for at least 3 hours per day.

People of all ages, genders, races/ethnicities, shapes, sizes can benefit from both physical activity and exercise, even at short incremental bouts of 10-minutes at a time. Evidence has shown that immediate health benefits of physical activity include:

  • Reduction in anxiety

  • Reduction in blood pressure

  • Improvement in insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels

  • Improvement in quality of sleep

For adults, long-term health benefits of physical activity include:

  • Weight reduction/maintenance

  • Improvement in body composition (waist circumference, body fat, muscle mass)

  • Improvement in bone health, physical function, and quality of life

  • Reduction in the risk of dementia (including Alzheimer's disease), all-cause mortality, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and depression

  • Prevention of 8 types of cancer (bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, stomach, and lung)

  • Reduction in pain for those with osteoarthritis

  • Reduction in disease progression for hypertension and type 2 diabetes

  • Improvement in cognition for those with dementia, multiple sclerosis, ADHD, Parkinson's disease

  • Reduction in symptoms of anxiety and depression

  • Lowers the risk of falls and injuries from falls for older adults

For youth, long-term health benefits of physical activity include:

  • Improvement in cognition

  • Improvement in bone health

  • Improvement in heart health

  • Reduction in risk of depression

  • Metabolic fitness to reduce risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease

  • Weight reduction/maintenance

  • Improvement in body composition (waist circumference, body fat, muscle mass)

For pregnant women, benefits of physical activity include:

  • Reduction in the risk of postpartum depression

  • Reduction in the risk of excessive weight gain

For additional information and tips to Move More, Sit Less, visit: Move Your Way.


Note: This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This blog does not constitute the practice of any medical, nursing or other professional health care advice, diagnosis or treatment. We cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions or make specific treatment recommendations through this blog or website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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