Increase Your Fitness, Reduce Your Risk for Serious Diseases

Increase Your Fitness, Reduce Your Risk for Serious Diseases

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who have gotten the message, “Stand up, move, walk, play, get active,” congratulations! Back in 2011 the CDC found that only about 20 percent of you met minimal guidelines for activity—barely more than 20 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a day, plus some strength building a couple days a week. But preliminary results from a new CDC survey indicate that 49.2 percent of adults met the activity guidelines for aerobics in 2014! And an increase in activity has big rewards.

We’re talking about an exciting study published in The BMJ (formerly, British Medical Journal) that shows just how important physical activity is for building up your defenses against serious disease, and how it can make your RealAge younger.

After examining 174 studies that looked at the effect of physical activity on breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, researchers from the University of Washington discovered that when you amp up your activity level, you have a much better chance of dodging those life-altering conditions. Those benefits are in addition to how effective consistent physical activity is in protecting your brain, enhancing your sex life, and reducing your risk for obesity and all its related woes. We are thrilled that this reinforces, one more time, what the RealAge program (designed by Dr. Mike and Keith Roach, M.D.) has said about data and smart action steps since it was first released in 1998! 

Measuring Your Activity Level: Meet MET
The activity gauge the researchers used to evaluate the benefits of kickin’ up your heels is called MET (Metabolic Equivalent Task), an approximate measure of how many calories are burned during any given activity. The World Health Organization recommends that adults get in a minimum of 600 MET minutes weekly—or about 30 minutes of moderate activity daily. Walking at a pace of two-and-a-half mph has a designated MET of 3. If you walk for 30 minutes, multiply 30 by 3—your MET minutes equal 90.  

But More…and More…Is Even Better
The researchers also discovered that increasing your MET minutes from 600 to 3600 a week reduces the risk of diabetes by an additional 19 percent, breast cancer by 14 percent, colon cancer by 21 percent, heart disease by 25 percent, and stroke by 26 percent. And you don’t have to spend six times as much time working out to hit 3600 METS—you just have to get smart about it by choosing activities that have higher MET values and adding a bit more time.

We’re particularly fond of a walking routine that incorporates interval training. Cardiologists, Marc Gillinov, M.D., and Steven Nissen, M.D. (Dr. Mike's colleagues at the Cleveland Clinic), recommend puff-hard-can’t-talk effort with periods of recovery: Step up your walking pace for four minutes, then take it easy, walking more slowly for three minutes. During your 30- to 60-minute walk, repeat this at least two to three times.

But we know you can do even more—and get even more life-improving results! You see, in the study, the disease-risk-reducing benefits of increased activity really were maximized at around 4200 MET minutes a week—or about the RealAge ideal of 10,000 steps a day, 30 minutes of resistance training, and 20 minutes three times a week of sweaty activity (cardio). That makes breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke substantially less likely!

So how can you step it up? Get a pedometer and measure all your activities including walking, stair climbing, vacuuming, gardening, running, or cycling. Then do the math: You can get a complete MET chart if you google “NCI MET chart” (NCI is the National Cancer Institute). Add up your achievements. By the end of the week, you’ll see just how great you feel when you meet the RealAge ideal of 4200 MET minutes (or even more) in seven days!

Medically reviewed in October 2018.

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