Exercise & Fitness
Exercising regularly, every day if possible, is the single most important thing you can do for your health. In the short term, exercise helps to control appetite, boost mood, and improve sleep. In the long term, it reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, depression, and many cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following:
For adults of all ages
- At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise like brisk walking or 75 minutes of rigorous exercise like running (or an equivalent mix of both) every week. It’s fine to break up exercise into smaller sessions as long as each one lasts at least 10 minutes.
- Strength-training that works all major muscle groups—legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms—at least two days a week. Strength training may involve lifting weights, using resistance bands, or exercises like push-ups and sit-ups, in which your body weight furnishes the resistance.
For pregnant women
The guidelines for aerobic exercise are considered safe for most pregnant women. The CDC makes no recommendation for strength training. It’s a good idea to review your exercise plan with your doctor.
At least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, most of which should be devoted to aerobic exercise. Children should do vigorous exercise and strength training, such as push-ups or gymnastics, on at least three days every week.
Exercise & Fitness Articles
Obesity is an excess of body fat.
It is difficult to directly measure body fat. Body mass index (BMI) is a popular method of defining a healthy weight. BMI should be used as a guide, along with waist size, to help estimate the amount of body fat.
BMI estimates a healthy weight based on your height. Because it considers height as well as weight, it is a more accurate guide than body weight alone.
If your determination to become more physically active has started to flag, the findings of several studies may help renew your commitment. Research has already documented that higher levels of physical activity can help prevent or ameliorate many conditions that reduce function and hamper independence as we get older, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and depression. Various types of exercise have also been linked with a reduced risk for dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Now four studies, including two randomized trials, add further evidence that regular exercise may be the best thing we can do to stay not only physically healthy but also cognitively sharp into old age.
Three of the studies appeared in the Jan. 25, 2010, issue of Archives of Internal Medicine. In the first study, Harvard researchers analyzed health data from more than 13,000 women participating in the long-running Nurses' Health Study. They found that the women who reported getting the most exercise at age 60 were almost twice as likely to become successful survivors, compared with the most sedentary women. (A "successful survivor" was defined as living beyond age 70 without developing cognitive, physical, or mental health limitations or any of 10 major chronic conditions, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.) Successful survival was associated with a level of exercise equivalent to walking briskly five to six hours per week.
Recommendations for physical exercise that focus on principles, not numbers.
Though the term might sound dated, "middle-age spread" is a greater concern than ever. As people go through their middle years, their proportion of fat to body weight tends to increase — more so in women than men. Extra pounds tend to park themselves around the midsection.
At one time, we might have accepted these changes as an inevitable fact of aging. But we've now been put on notice that as our waistlines grow, so do our health risks. Abdominal, or visceral, fat is of particular concern because it's a key player in a variety of health problems — much more so than subcutaneous fat, the kind you can grasp with your hand. Visceral fat, on the other hand, lies out of reach, deep within the abdominal cavity, where it pads the spaces between our abdominal organs.
Visceral fat has been linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In women, it is also associated with breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery.