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
Exercise reduces stress hormones and stimulates production of endorphins, which together help foster relaxation. Other techniques, such as breathing exercises and muscle relaxation, can enhance the stress-beating effects of exercise.
My daughter gave me a pedometer and told me to walk 10,000 steps a day. When I wore it for a while, I realized I was taking only about 3,000 steps a day. Is 10,000 a realistic number for someone my age (70 years)?
Pelvic floor strengthening exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, are known to be effective for stress urinary incontinence in women, with cure rates of up to 80%. Here are 7 tips to help you perform them properly.
For women with pelvic organ prolapse, pelvic floor strengthening exercises may prevent the condition from worsening, and may even reverse the condition in some women.
Five poor heart habits are responsible for the majority of heart disease, but their opposite, healthy behaviors can help protect the heart and improve overall health. And it's never too late to start. You don't need to aim for a complete transformation all at once. Small changes in diet, exercise, or weight can make a big difference in your health. Setting goals you can realistically achieve, and then meeting them, can snowball into even bigger improvements.
In a study involving more than 83,000 participants in Harvard's Nurses' Health Study, researchers found a strong association between a high level of physical activity and a reduced risk for colon cancer. Researchers used a measure called metabolic equivalents, or METs, to assess physical activity levels. Women who reported 21 MET hours per week—equivalent to about seven hours per week of brisk walking—were half as likely to develop colon cancer as those who got only two MET hours per week (equivalent to walking slowly for one hour per week).
The chart below lists the number of METs used per hour during various types of physical activities. For more information about METs and physical activity, go to prevention.sph.sc.edu/tools/compendium.htm.
The benefits of walking extend to many aspects of health and fitness. Incorporating walking into one's daily routine is an excellent starting point.
Like his father and grandfather before him, the typical American man of the 21st century works for his living. In most cases, though, he works with his mind, not his body.
It wasn't always that way. As recently as the 19th century, 30% of all the energy used in the American workplace was provided by human muscle power; today, the percentage is minuscule. In most ways, the transition from an agricultural economy to an industrial society to today's information age has been a great boon. But something has also been lost.
Technology has freed men from physical labor both at work and at home. In addition, unprecedented efficiency, productivity, and affluence have produced shorter workdays, more vacation time, and earlier retirement. It all adds up to more free time for most men.
Exercise shouldn't be something you do only when you want to drop those 10 extra pounds or prepare for the charity 10-kilometer run. To be successful, it should be something you do as routinely as eating, sleeping, and taking your morning shower. That can be difficult, as you may already know. The information below may help you stay on course when your motivation starts to flag. Remember, the result is worth the effort.
The value of maintaining an exercise program became evident when the results of the Harvard Alumni Health Study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The men who had been moderately active but later became sedentary had a 15% higher risk of death than their counterparts who had never been active. On the other hand, those who started and kept up an exercise program had a 23% lower risk of death, which approaches the 29% decrease in risk enjoyed by the men who'd always been active. But knowing the benefits of lifelong exercise or even creating a personal exercise plan will be of little use if you don't stick to your program. As you plan an exercise routine, you need to prepare for the challenges that await you, so you won't be thrown off track.
Make it personal. Your first step on the lifelong path to healthy physical activity is to identify what works for you. Give some thought to what kind of activities suit your lifestyle, time constraints, budget, and physical condition. Don't forget to factor in your likes and dislikes.
The table below lists the calories burned by doing dozens of activities listed by category (such as gym activities, training and sports activities, home repair etc.) for 30 minutes. Activities and exercises include walking (casual, race, and everything in between), swimming, jogging, yoga, and even watching TV and sleeping. In each category, activities are listed from least to most calories burned.
(This table was first printed in the July 2004 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter. For more information or to order, please go to http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart.)