Archive for Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Even light physical activity has big health benefits

February 17, 2010


Q: After reading your column last week, I decided that it was time for me to get more active. I’ve read all kinds of suggestions on how much I should exercise. What’s the current recommendations?

A: Actually, in 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided the first-ever science-based guidance to help Americans ages 6 and older improve their health through appropriate physical activity. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans complements the Dietary Guidelines for Americans — together, they provide guidance on the importance of being physically active and eating a healthy diet. For the complete document, go to

Here are the key guidelines for adults:

• All adults should avoid inactivity. Some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits.

• For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week.

• Slowly build up the amount of time you do physical activities. The more time you spend, the more health benefits you gain. Over time, aim for twice the amount of activity that is listed above.

• Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate or high intensity and involve all major muscle groups (such as legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders and arms) on two or more days a week. Exercises for each muscle group should be repeated eight to 12 times per session.

Q: How can I tell an activity at a moderate level from a vigorous one?

A: Vigorous activities take more effort than moderate ones. Here are just a few examples of each:

Moderate activities (I can talk while I do them, but I can’t sing):

• Ballroom and line dancing

• Biking on level ground or with few hills

• Canoeing

• General gardening (raking, trimming shrubs)

• Sports where you catch and throw (baseball, softball, volleyball)

• Tennis (doubles)

• Using your manual wheelchair

• Using hand cyclers — also called ergometers

• Walking briskly

• Water aerobics

Vigorous activities (I can only say a few words without stopping to catch my breath):

• Aerobic dance

• Biking faster than 10 miles per hour

• Fast dancing

• Heavy gardening (digging, hoeing)

• Hiking uphill

• Jumping rope

• Martial arts (such as karate)

• Race walking, jogging, or running

• Sports with a lot of running (basketball, hockey, soccer)

• Swimming fast or swimming laps

• Tennis (singles)

Q: I just saw a poster on Walk Kansas that you’re sponsoring. What is it?

A: Walk Kansas is a team-based program that will help you and others lead a healthier life by being more active, making better nutrition choices, and learning positive ways to deal with stress. This is the eighth year that Walk Kansas has been offered in Douglas County. Last year, Douglas County had 727 individuals participate in Walk Kansas. Of the 122 teams, more than 60 percent were from workplaces.

This is how it works: Co-workers, family members, friends and neighbors form teams of six people who will track minutes of physical activity and food choices, each day, during the eight-week challenge — March 7-May 1, 2010. If each team member reaches the minimum goals for physical activity, the team would walk 423 miles — the distance across the state — in eight weeks. Team members don’t even have to walk or be active together — even though it’s fun to “buddy up.” You can count individual activity and you can also count activities that you do with others outside of your team.

Q: Is walking the only activity that counts?

A: No — any activity that is at a moderate or vigorous level (for at least 10 consecutive minutes) can count. This includes all of the aerobic activities listed above — plus strength and flexibility exercises, such as yoga, tai chi or working with resistance bands or weights also counts.

For much more information on Walk Kansas, go to our Web site or contact me or Margaret Kalb at 843-7058. The registration deadline is March 1 (however, late registrations will be accepted until 1 p.m. March 19). The individual participant fee is $7, plus $2 for each additional family member living in the household.

— Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.


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