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Intentional Daily Movement | Coping with the COVID-19 Pandemic

My name is Olivia Affuso and I am a streak runner. I have run at least one mile every day for the last 600 consecutive days. This may seem like a lot, but there are people like Jon Sutherland who has been running every day for more than 50 years! Now, that, is a lot of running. Of course, this is more than enough, but the science is clear: We humans need regular physical activity to stay mentally and physically well.

Getting started can be tough as people move from ‘just thinking about it’ to actually engaging in physical activities like brisk walking, running or strength training. Research suggests that it takes about 66 days to establish a habit, and additional strategies may be needed to recover from any unexpected breaks due to injury and other things. Keeping it going long-term can be a challenge. Let’s just say, life happens.

2020 has thrown us all a serious curveball with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Many of us have had to change our routines—including those routines for our exercise goals or resolutions that often wane within the first months of the year.

But, how about during the pandemic? My observation, at least via social media, is that more people are engaging in exercise to deal with the stress of the ‘stay-at-home’ measures than before the crisis. I have noticed more live streaming of dance fitness, yoga, body weight strength classes and more. The online running groups I belong to are very active with individuals posting about their progress on one or more virtual races such as the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee – 1000K, which requires running five miles per day to complete it by the August 31st, 2020 deadline. There are over 18,000 registered participants from around the world. Of course, the number of participants is not evidence that previously sedentary people are getting more active. Hopefully, we will have some data about how COVID-19 is impacting people’s physical activity from a new ongoing study by researchers at Ohio University.

Has the pandemic affected my exercise routine? Absolutely! Initially, I experienced a steep drop in the duration and intensity of my running (from 35 miles to 15 miles/week) due to an increase in caregiving responsibilities as well as transitioning my in-person public health course of 56 students to an online format. However, I did not break my streak. I couldn’t break my streak. There is no way the 300 plus ladies in my online support and accountability group would let me quit without good reason. As a matter of fact, we currently have a 150-day one intentional mile challenge going until the end of May. Many of the women are on track to complete this challenge and several have shared their plans to keep their habit of intentional daily movement going for at least 365 days. Take Lisa for instance. She is a corporate executive who struggled with being consistent with her exercise until she started her first 50-day challenge. Not only is Lisa now meeting the national physical activity guidelines of at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity, she is walking a 5K every day and six miles virtually on Sundays with friends. She says she has never felt better and has no plans to break her walking streak.

Could this pandemic be your catalyst to start your own movement ‘streak’? Yes! You can do it. Here are my suggestions for getting started:

1) Choose an activity you like to do

2) Set a minimum time or distance for each day

3) Pick a start date

4) Find support

5) Be flexible

6) Have fun!

Of course, check with your physician before starting any exercise routine.

 

Author: Olivia Affuso, Ph.D., FACSM,  is a faculty member at the University of Alabama and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine Board of Trustees.

Five Frequently Asked Questions About the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition

In 2008, the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) issued the federal government’s first-ever Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (Guidelines) to help Americans understand the types and amounts of physical activity that offer important health benefits. Given the extensive amount of new information available over the past decade, DHHS released the second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans on November 12, 2018.

 

#1 How many Americans meet the Physical Activity Guidelines?

In 2017, only about 20% of high school students and 25% of adults reported getting enough physical activity to meet the aerobic and muscle-strengthening guidelines.

 

#2 How much physical activity do school-aged youth and adults need?

The guidelines for children and adolescents are as follows:

  • It is important to provide young people opportunities and encouragement to participate in physical activities that are appropriate for their age, that are enjoyable and that offer variety.
  • Children and adolescents aged six through 17 years should do 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily:
    • Aerobic: Most of the 60 minutes or more per day should be either moderate- or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity and should include vigorous-intensity physical activity on at least three days a week.
    • Muscle-strengthening: As part of their 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include muscle-strengthening physical activity on at least three days a week.
    • Bone-strengthening: As part of their 60 minutes or more of daily physical activity, children and adolescents should include bone-strengthening physical activity on at least three days a week.

The guidelines for adults are as follows:

  • Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits.
  • For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes to 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.
  • Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.
  • Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups on two or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.

See Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition for additional key guidelines for the following populations:

  • Preschool-aged children.
  • Older adults.
  • Women during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
  • Adults with chronic health conditions and adults with disabilities.
  • Safe physical activity.

 

#3 To meet the current Physical Activity Guidelines, do Americans need to be more or less active compared to what was first recommended in 2008?

The new evidence reinforces the amounts and types of physical activity recommended for youth and adults in the 2008 Guidelines. The total amount of physical activity didn’t change in the second edition of the Guidelines. However, unlike the 2008 Guidelines, with the current Guidelines, moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity no longer needs to occur in bouts of at least 10 minutes to count towards meeting the adult aerobic activity guideline.

 

#4 What has changed in this second edition of the Guidelines?

This second edition of the Guidelines reflects the extensive amount of new knowledge gained since the 2008 release of the first edition of the Guidelines. This second edition of the Guidelines discusses the proven benefits of physical activity and outlines the amounts and types of physical activity recommended for different ages and populations. For example, new aspects include discussions of:

  • Immediate and longer-term benefits for how people feel, function and sleep after being physically active.
  • Additional health benefits of physical activity related to brain health, additional cancer sites and fall-related injuries.
  • Further benefits of being active among older adults and people with additional chronic conditions.
  • Risks of sedentary behavior and their relationship with physical activity.
  • Guidance on activity levels for preschool children aged three through five years.
  • Elimination of the requirement for physical activity of adults to occur in bouts of at least 10 minutes.
  • Tested strategies that can be used to get the population more active.

 

#5 Where can I find more information?

Learn more about the latest Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. You can also explore the Move Your Way for interactive tools (like the one below), motivational videos, and helpful tips to make it easier to move more and sit less. Remember, physical activity can make you feel better right away including:

  • Boosting your mood,
  • Sharpening your focus,
  • Reducing your stress, and
  • Improving your sleep.

Author: Kathleen B. Watson, Ph.D. 

2018 Physical Activity Guidelines – How to Meet the Goals in Everyday Activities

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