Physical Activity vs. Exercise – Why Every Little Movement Makes a Difference as We Age
In case you haven’t heard, the health benefits of regular physical activity are numerous and include improved cognition, reduced risk of dementia, improved sleep, better bone health, less anxiety and lowered risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers – just to name a few!
Women who are pregnant experience a reduced risk of excessive weight gain, gestational diabetes and postpartum depression.
Plus, for people with various chronic medical conditions, regular physical activity helps to reduce risk of all-cause and disease-specific mortality and improves overall quality of life.
This news may be well and good, but if your current lifestyle is less than active, the thought of beginning an exercise routine may be intimidating.
“It is important to differentiate activity level from exercise,” says Dr. Eugene Tareshawty, an internal medicine physician with Kauai Medical Clinic.
According to Tareshawty, being active every day – be it walking, dancing or performing household chores – is more important than getting in a workout a few days a week, especially when it comes to aging healthily.
“It is never too late to increase your activity level,” Tareshawty says. “Increasing physical activity leads to improved strength, flexibility, mobility and fitness, all of which improve daily function and help maintain independence while reducing the risk of falls and providing social engagement.”
New guidelines from the United States Department of Health and Human Services recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, as well as strength-training exercise for all major muscle groups twice a week.
“The guidelines for physical activity were expanded because continued population studies have shown added benefits, especially in regards to cognitive function, mental health and well-being in the elderly,” Tareshawty explains. “The newer guidelines give better definition to the different grades of physical activity. They also removed the ‘10 minute’ definition to account for cumulative time spent on daily activities.”
Moderate physical activity can look like:
- Walking briskly.
- Doing house chores (yard work, scrubbing the floor, vacuuming, etc.).
- Playing actively with children.
- Biking at a casual pace.
More-vigorous activity can be any of the following:
- Jogging or running.
- Jumping rope.
- Swimming laps.
- Playing competitive sports.
- Practicing Pilates, yoga or tai chi.
- Skating (interval or cross-training).
“The mental and psychological well-being benefits from physical activity are immediate,” Tareshawty says, noting that most people can expect to see some change in their body mass index (BMI) and body composition within a couple weeks of consistent physical activity.
“The ability to maintain a normal BMI value and improve other medical conditions, including blood sugar, cholesterol scores and hypertension, require both an active lifestyle and regulation of calorie consumption,” Tareshawty adds.
People with advanced medical conditions should receive guidance from their primary care physician (PCP) prior to starting a new activity plan.
If you do not currently have a PCP or are on the search for a new doctor, click here to access a list of Hawaii Pacific Health physicians accepting new patients near you.
Published on: January 27, 2020