Your Activity Power Plan

Your Activity Power Plan

Go from thinking about exercise to actually doing it!

Welcome to the epic battle of Good Intentions versus Reality. Heck, maybe that should be the plot of the next Marvel movie, with a super hero named Exercise Intentions finally triumphing over the evil mastermind Excuses ’n’ Obstacles. We hope Intentions wins—and so do you.

Intentions: UPI reports that more than 75 percent of adults in America say that being in shape and looking good are "very important" to them, and around as many say they want to change something about the appearance of their body.

Excuses ’n’ Obstacles: However, only 23.5 percent of folks aged 18 and over meet the minimal, not optimal, guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity. And many folks feel they don’t have the time, they’re too tired, it’s too expensive, they’re not young enough or healthy enough to work out, or they just don’t enjoy it.

Solution: Motivation + Information may be the key to letting your Good Intentions win. So we’re going to show you just how effective physical activity can be in protecting your health and how you can fit fitness into your life.

Benefits that are life-changing
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has put together all the scientific evidence behind the most recent Physical Activity Guidelines. Those guidelines say you should get 150 to 300 minutes weekly of moderate aerobic activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity, plus moderate to vigorous muscle-strengthening activities using all major muscle groups two or more days a week.

We pulled out 3 of the 14 areas they researched to help you get motivated to walk the walk instead of talk and balk.

Tracking your step count: We’re always telling you to get in as many steps daily as possible (target 10,000). Well here’s why that’s important. The ACSM found evidence that for healthy adults, every additional 2,000 steps a day you take (up to 10,000) is associated with a 10 percent reduction in cardiovascular events (heart attack, stroke, angina, etc.). And if you have impaired glucose tolerance (pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes), every increase in 2,000 steps a day reduces the rate of cardiovascular events by 8 percent! To help track your steps, download the Sharecare app for iOS and Android.

Easing knee and hip osteoarthritis (OA) pain: Around 14 million of you have knee pain from osteoarthritis, and around a quarter of you will develop OA of the hip at some point. The ACSM found research that definitively shows physical activity can decrease pain and increase joint function—and 10,000 steps a day or the equivalent does not accelerate progression of OA.

Keeping your brain sharp: For both young and old, the ACSM says there’s strong evidence that moderate to vigorous physical activity not only has an immediate effect on your cognitive abilities (all that blood and oxygen flowing to your brain), but in the long run it improves academic achievement and boosts your information processing speed, memory, and executive function. In addition, it helps protect you against cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease.

How to get those benefits?

  1. If you have any physical or medical limitations, talk to your doctor about activities that you can do and will stick with.
  2. Is time a problem? Look for small wins—don’t set huge goals. Bouts of 10 minutes of activity are beneficial for sedentary folks! Walk the mall, the yard, your office halls. Do stretch bands for 10 minutes in the morning, at lunchtime, before dinner. While watching TV, stand up and march in place; do jumps.
  3. Don’t like gyms? Find outside isn’t inviting? Check out videos on YouTube and online that offer everything from seated yoga (it’s surprisingly effective) to Tai Chi, as well as more vigorous step or spin classes and calisthenics. Try ’em all. Find what’s fun. Fun is the key to sticking with it.

When you’ve decided to take steps to improve your health, write down your goals (keep them doable), and then record your daily efforts.

Medically reviewed in December 2019.

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