Last week we clarified the difference between exercise and physical activity and why it matters. Another important reason why we need to be clear about the difference is because the two are mixed up often in the media. Here is an example I came across on the internet:
Don’t overthink your exercise: just 2.5 hours per week of any kind could help you live longer
The article is a wonderful write up reviewing a one of largest global studies ever published on the heart health benefits of physical activity. “The researchers found that 150 minutes spent exercising per week could cut a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and death. And, most importantly, the Lancet paper demonstrated that all kinds of physical activity were equally good for the heart.”
The great news from this article is that this huge study showed that the “people who reported at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week were much healthier than their sedentary counterparts: They were less likely to have heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular disease, and less likely to die from any cause. Getting only two and a half hours of weekly exercise was associated with a 28 percent reduction in premature death, and a 20 percent reduction in heart disease.”
Wow! That is awesome! On one hand it is a message to relax a bit, don’t worry if you are not super fit, you are getting a nice protection just by making efforts to be sure you move in some way for 150 minutes a week.
On the other hand though, what about all we do to fit in exercise time? If we can get that nice protection from vacuuming and yard work, why waste time lifting weights and walking?
Articles like these miss the chance to promote both exercise and physical activity. We need to talk about two different goals here:
Reducing sedentary time by increasing physical activity in bouts during the day. This offers great health protection because begin still for more than 30 min at a time strains health, even if you are a regular exerciser! Studies indicate that going to the gym in the morning does not protect from the risks of being sedentary the rest of the day. Even regular exercisers get added health protection from avoiding prolonged stillness all day long .
Exercise as practice to make physical activities easier. What exercise does for daily function is a bit more difficult to measure in studies like these. It is individual, often only you see the difference. When you can climb the stairs without stopping or get up off the floor without grunting or do housework for longer without resting, you know you are benefiting from exercise. Remember, exercise is time set aside to practice making what you want and need to do everyday easier! In this way, exercise helps you be more physically active.
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These weekly blogs are general guidelines. These guidelines apply to patients who are cleared by a physician for the type of exercise described. Please contact your physician with any concerns or questions. Always report any symptoms associated with exercise, such as pain, irregular heartbeats, and dizziness or fainting, to your physician.