When you hear the word “exercise” what comes to mind? Do visions of frantically running on a treadmill or being locked in a grueling gym session with a personal trainer flicker through your head? Take heart. Getting the regular exercise you need to stay healthy and protect yourself from developing a chronic disease doesn’t mean you have to participate in a full-blown, hour long, muscle-burning workout.
What is regular exercise?
Exercise is anything that gets your body moving. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself when it comes to:
- reducing your risk of developing several chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers like colon cancer and breast cancer
- improving your mental health
- preventing falls
- reducing pain from arthritis and fibromyalgia
- controlling the frequency and duration of asthma attacks
- increasing your chances of living longer
Exercise doesn’t have to be overwhelming to provide you with all kinds of wonderful benefits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week—that’s about how long it takes to watch a movie. The CDC also recommends doing muscle-strengthening exercises 2 or more days a week.
The great news is that exercising for 10 minutes at a time is perfectly acceptable and will provide you with all of the above benefits.
What is moderate-intensity aerobic exercise?
To be moderately intense, the exercise you are doing should raise your heart rate and make you break a sweat. One way to tell if you’re working at a moderately intense rate is being able to talk, but not being able to sing the words to your favorite song. Here are some examples of activities that require moderate effort:
- walking fast
- doing water aerobics
- playing doubles tennis
- pushing a lawn mower
- cleaning (washing windows, vacuuming, mopping)
- biking 10–12 mph
What are muscle-strengthening exercises?
Muscle-strengthening activities work all the major muscle groups of your body (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms). Examples include:
- lifting weights
- working with resistance bands
- doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance (i.e., pushups, situps)
- heavy gardening (i.e., digging, shoveling)
When lifting weights, doing resistance bands or using your body weight for resistance, you should try to do 8–12 repetitions per activity. That counts as 1 set. Try to do at least 1 set of muscle-strengthening activities. To gain even more benefits, do 2 or 3 sets.
What does the research say about the benefits of exercise?
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), exercise can boost heart health by improving blood pressure and glucose, lessening stress, reducing body fat and fueling the production of heart-protective HDL cholesterol while lowering artery-clogging triglycerides and bad LDL cholesterol.
Researchers from the U.K. combined results from 28 studies and found that the more exercise people did, the lower their risk of Type 2 diabetes. The studies found that exercise helps insulin work better on cells and helps muscles use sugar more effectively.
A small study conducted by researchers in New Zealand found that walking 10 minutes after meals, and dinner in particular, proved to be more effective in controlling blood sugar levels for Type 2 diabetics than doing 30 minutes of exercise all at once during the day.
The NIH reports that ongoing clinical trails are examining physical activity and/or exercise interventions in cancer prevention and treatment. Research indicates that being active may have beneficial effects for several aspects of cancer survivorship—specifically:
- weight gain
- quality of life
- cancer recurrence or progression
- prognosis (likelihood of survival)
Most of the evidence comes from people diagnosed with breast, prostate or colorectal cancer.
Even if you haven’t been physically active for years, be sure to talk with your doctor before starting any kind of exercise program to determine the kinds of activities and intensity levels you can handle. Then set a reachable goal. Maybe it’s taking a 5-minute walk after dinner. Work to increase the time you are active as you get stronger. You’ll start feeling the benefits of exercise right away.
Make getting and staying healthy easier:
Consider signing up for CarePlus—a free concierge health care service. When you sign up for CarePlus our team will help you:
- find the right doctor
- get appointments quickly
- get faster access to your medical information—like lab results
- obtain referrals to specialists and the pre-authorizations you may need
- get your insurance questions answered