Friday, June 13, 2014

How Much Physical Activity Do You Really Need?

How Much Physical Activity Do You Really Need? 

Physical activity has recently come to be seen as one of the best forms of medicine available. Studies have shown that simply getting on your feet can ward off all manner of ill health, from cancers to cardiovascular diseases. But how much do you need to do to reap the benefits?

For a start, there's no need to be doing vigorous exercise if you don't want to. Exercise is just one form of physical activity, says I-Min Lee, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. "We used to think you used to have to go out for a run, or swim for an hour without stopping – but we've realised now from the body of research that we have that any movement is good."

Instead, a brisk walk is enough, says Lee – the kind of pace you might achieve if you were late to meet a friend for lunch.

Government recommendations tend to be for people to do 150 minutes of this level of moderate physical activity per week. Those who prefer vigorous workouts need only do half that amount to get the same health effects. Many governments are now also beginning to recognise that there are huge benefits to doing resistance training – lifting moderate amounts of weight (like the sand in a bottle used in Brazil's academias) – particularly for older people.

The idea of a brisk half-hour walk five times a week might not sound too much of a challenge, but even that seems to be a struggle for many of the world's population – a third of adults and 80 per cent of teens fail to reach these recommendations. And in light of some recent findings, even those recommendations are being called into question.

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