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preventive health services

Physical Activity

Why is this important?

Regular physical activity is good for everyone’s health. Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving. Start at a comfortable level. Once you get the hang of it, add a little more activity each time. Then try getting active more often.

What kinds of activity should I do?

To get all the health benefits of physical activity, do a combination of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.

Aerobic activities make you breathe harder and cause your heart to beat faster. Walking fast is an example of aerobic activity. Muscle-strengthening activities make your muscles stronger. Muscle-strengthening activities include lifting weights, using resistance bands, and doing push-ups.

What are the benefits of physical activity?

  • Physical activity increases your chances of living longer. It can also help:
    • Control your blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight
    • Lower your “bad” cholesterol and raise your “good” cholesterol
    • Prevent heart disease, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes

And that’s not all. Being more active can:

  • Be fun
  • Help you look your best
  • Improve your sleep
  • Make your bones, muscles, and joints stronger
  • Lower your chances of becoming depressed
  • Reduce falls and arthritis pain
  • Help you feel better about yourself

How can the MUSC healthcare team help you in planning a physical activity program?

Your MUSC Health physician or health care team member will ask you about your daily physical activity and exercise habits. You may also receive counseling during and after your office visit. You will be encouraged to increase your activity levels to a healthy amount. Sometimes phone calls are scheduled to discuss your exercise program. If you have medical conditions that may prevent an increase in your physical activity, your doctor may ask additional questions or schedule some tests.

The Guidelines for Adults Less than Age 65

Some physical activity is better than none. Inactive adults should gradually increase their level of activity. People gain health benefits from as little as 60 min- utes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week.

For major health benefits, do at least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes (one hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week. Another option is to do a combination of both. A general rule is that two minutes of moderate-intensity activity counts the same as one minute of vigorous-intensity activity.

For even more health benefits, do 300 minutes (five hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) of vigorous-intensity activity each week (or a combination of both). The more active you are, the more you will benefit. The number of individuals needed to receive physical activity counseling and reach an activity lifestyle for one life, is approximately 12 individuals.

When doing aerobic activity, do it for at least ten minutes at a time. Spread the activity throughout the week. Muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate or vigorous intensity should be included two or more days a week. These activities should work all of the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms). Examples include lifting weights, working with resistance bands, and doing sit ups and pushups, yoga, and heavy gardening.

Guidelines for adults aged 65 or older

The guidelines advise that:

  • Older adults should be physically active. Older adults who do any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits. If inactive, older adults should gradually increase their activity levels and avoid vigorous activity at first.
  • Older adults should follow the guidelines for adults, if possible. Do a variety of activities, including walking. Walking has been shown to provide health benefits and a low risk of injury.
  • If you can’t do 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) of activity each week, be as physically active as your abilities and condition allow.
  • You should do balance exercises if you’re at risk for falls. Examples include walking backward or sideways, standing on one leg, and standing from a sitting position several times in a row.
  • If you have a long-term (ongoing) health condition — such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes — ask your doctor what types and amounts of activity are safe for you.

Frequently asked questions about physical activity

Is physical activity for everyone?
Yes! Physical activity is good for people of all ages and body types. Even if you feel out-of-shape or you haven’t been active in a long time, you can find activities that will work for you.

What if I’m overweight?
If you are overweight or obese, getting active can help you lower your risk of:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Some types of cancer
  • Heart disease

What if I have a health condition?
If you have a health condition like Type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, physical activity can help you manage it. Ask your doctor what types of activity are best for you.

What if I have a disability?
If you have a disability, your doctor can help you choose the best activities for you. You can also use these tips to stay active with a disability.

How Do I Take Action?
First, think about your current physical activity level. The tips in this section are for adults. Use these tips to help your kids get more active.

I’m just getting started.
Start out slowly and add new physical activities little by little. After a few weeks or months, do them longer and more often.

Choose activities that you enjoy.
Team up with a friend or join a class. Ask your family and friends to be active with you. Play games like tennis or basketball, or take a class in dance or martial arts.
Everyday activities can add up to an active lifestyle. You can:

  • Go for a brisk walk around the neighborhood
  • Ride a bicycle to work or just for fun
  • Play outdoor games with your children

Have fun with your family.
If you have children, you can be a role model for making healthy choices. Encourage your whole family to get active outside. Go for a hike or organize a family soccer game.

If someone you know has trouble making time for physical activity, use these tips to help your loved one get more active.

Strengthen your muscles.
Try some of these activities a few days a week:

  • Crunches (sit-ups)
  • Heavy gardening, like digging or shoveling
  • Doing push-ups on the floor or against the wall
  • Lifting small weights — you can even use bottled water or cans of food as weights

Find a time that works for you.
See if you can fit in twn minutes of activity before work or after dinner.

I’m doing a little, but I’m ready to get more active.
You may already be feeling the benefits of getting active, such as sleeping better or getting toned. Here are two ways to add more activity to your life.

  • Be active for longer each time. If you are walking thre days a week for 30 minutes, try walking for an additional ten minutes or more each day.
  • Be active more often. If you are riding your bike to work two days a week, try riding your bike to work four days a week.

Find time in your schedule.
Look at your schedule for the week. Find a few 30-minute time periods you can use for more physical activity. Put them in your calendar.

I’m already physically active, and I want to keep it up.
If you are already active for two hours and 30 minutes each week, you can get even more health benefits by stepping up your routine.

Getting more physical activity can further lower your risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Breast cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Colorectal cancer

Do more vigorous activities.
In general, 15 minutes of vigorous activity has the same benefits as 30 minutes of moderate activity. Try jogging for 15 minutes instead of walking for 30 minutes.

Mix it up.
Mix vigorous activities with moderate ones. Try joining a fitness group or gym class. Don’t forget to do muscle-strengthening activities two days a week.

Challenge yourself.
It’s never too late to increase your physical activity! Healthy people who don’t have heart problems or chronic disease, normally don’t need to talk to their doctor before starting. Consult your doctor if you have any health concerns about your exercise program.