The other day I heard a story about a woman who hated to exercise. She wanted nothing of it: going to the gym, sweating, walking on the treadmill. Boring. No way! She’d heard about the latest 2018 U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines, but had dismissed them as irrelevant to her life.
Recently, she stumbled onto an article that said the activities she was doing in everyday life counted as exercise and that moving more could actually make her feel better. “Cleaning the house, sweeping the porch, mowing the lawn, and walking my child to school are exercise? Really? I need to learn more!”
Off she went to search the internet. She discovered the Compendium of Physical Activities that listed MET values for hundreds of activities. METs? What are those? After learning that METs are a multiple of energy expended at rest (1 MET), the woman got a paper and pen and went to work. She listed all of her daily activities and how much time she did them each week. Then she separated the activities into light-, moderate-, and vigorous-intensity categories based on the MET values. Low and behold, she spent a lot of time in moderate activities and even some in vigorous activities. Amazing!
She wondered, how many minutes are ‘enough’? She remembered the 2018 U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines and went back to the internet. The guidelines recommended that she should “move more and sit less throughout the day.” Check! She did that.
The guidelines also recommended that she also “do at least 150 – 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activities (3.0-5.9 METs) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activities (6.0 and higher METs), or a combination of the two intensities each week. Preferably the activities should be aerobic. And every minute counted.” Based on her list of activities and METs, she was close to meeting that goal too. She was on a roll!
The third guideline stopped her in her tracks. They recommended she “do at least two days of muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity that involve all her major muscle groups.” Whoa. She didn’t do any muscle strengthening activities. She had no idea what were her major muscle groups.
Back to the internet for more information.
The woman learned that it’s important to work the major muscle groups: the chest, shoulders, back, biceps and triceps, legs and calves, and stomach. Oh. No way she worked these muscle groups at least two days a week, let alone one day a week.
To get help with where to start, the woman went to a nearby gym and worked with a trainer who showed her exercises to strengthen her muscles. She added these exercises to her schedule twice a week and, she liked it! She was getting stronger, her body was firming up and she liked how she felt during and after her workouts. She was sweating and loving it!
Before she knew it, the woman was looking for ways to get moving intentionally. She dusted off that old bicycle in the garage and took it for a spin. She bought a fitness tracker and took the long way to pick up her child at school. She even signed up for an exercise class to get more minutes of vigorous-intensity activities. Moving more had become a part of her life. Everything she was doing, even the bite-sized amounts of activity, counted toward her activity goals. She felt great, slept better, and had more energy.
The moral to this story is that if we move every day, we are doing positive things for our mental and physical health. The new 2018 U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines tell us how much activity we need on a regular basis to improve our health and reduce our risk of chronic diseases. So here’s to an active and healthy 2019 as we aim for every child, adult and senior to reach the goals set in the 2018 U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines.
Author: Barbara E. Ainsworth