George Brothers, MD says “The closest thing we have to a wonder drug just might be exercise. No medication available has the ability to affect the onset and clinical course of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, depression, and arthritis.” Definitive data supports the role of exercise in all of the conditions noted above. In terms of life expectancy, a sedentary individual has a 42% risk of premature death compared with a physically active person. That number is close to the risk of early death associated with heavy smoking.
You do not need to train like an Olympic athlete to achieve a beneficial effect from exercise. Thirty minutes 5 days per week of moderate intensity physical activity is enough to achieve a positive health benefit. What defines moderate intensity? Getting your heart rate up to 110-140 beats per minute is sufficient. This might be the equivalent of walking at a 3-4 miles per hour pace or cycling at 10 miles per hour. Mowing the lawn or vacuuming might also qualify. So, this year vow to make exercise a habit.
The Surgeon General and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have initiated a program called Step It Up; a community focused effort to increase physical activity. You can find out more at www.CDC.gov/healthyweight/physicalactivity.
The Many Benefits of Exercise for Adults and Youth
Everyone can benefit from regular exercise. Youth who are active will: have stronger muscles and bones; have a leaner body; be less likely to become overweight; decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes; lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels; and sleep better.
According to Mary Fox Braithwaite, MD, MSPH, FAAP, Pediatrician at Chapel Hill Pediatrics and Adolescents, PA, “Adults can model healthy and fun behaviors by joining children in physical and fun activities such as walking, bicycling, dancing, playing ball, etc. Physical fitness can be a family commitment and great bonding activity.” When most adults think about exercise, they imagine working out in the gym, running on a treadmill, or lifting weights. But for kids, exercise means playing and being physically active. Kids exercise when they have gym class at school, during recess, at dance class or soccer practice, while riding bikes, or when playing tag.
What to do
One of the best ways to get children to be more active is to limit the amount of time spent in sedentary activities, especially watching TV or other screens. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parents:
- Put limits on the time spent using media, which includes TV, social media, and video games. Media should not take the place of getting enough sleep and being active.
- Limit screen time to 1 hour a day or less for children 2 to 5 years old.
- Discourage any screen time, except video-chatting, for kids younger than 18 months.
- Choose high-quality programming and watch it with your kids to help them understand what they’re seeing.
- Keep TVs, computers, and video games out of children’s bedrooms and turn off screens during mealtimes.
Aim to limit your child’s TV or computer screen time, Be active as a family, and Children need 60 minutes of play with moderate to vigorous activity every day.
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