Health Fitness

Are you getting the recommended amount of exercise?

No one argues that regular exercise not only improves overall levels of health and fitness, but also reduces the risk of many chronic, life-altering diseases. Now it appears that a new study has found that American women are not as likely as their male counterparts to get the recommended 30-minute daily amount of exercise.

So what is moderate to vigorous exercise? It’s the type of workout where you’re working hard enough to get your heart rate up and break a sweat. You can speak but not sing a song out loud. Examples of moderately intense aerobic activity include brisk walking, water aerobics, biking on level ground, playing doubles tennis, and mowing with a push mower.

Vigorous intensity activity makes you breathe fast and hard, with a fairly high heart rate. You won’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing to breathe. Examples of actions at this intensity level include jogging / running, swimming laps, biking fast or uphill, playing individual tennis or basketball.

The most recent research, conducted at Oregon State University, included more than 1,000 men and women from a nationally representative sample. Examining the data, the researchers found that the women only got about 18 minutes of exercise a day, while the men got the full 30 minutes. Of the study population, just over one in three women had been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome and one in five reported symptoms of depression.

What distinguishes this study from others is that it used an objective measure of activity. The subjects wore a device known as an accelerometer that is capable of measuring how much activity they were doing each day. And while the women in the study population had better health behaviors, not getting those full 30 minutes (or more) puts them at a health disadvantage.

Those who got at least the recommended amount of exercise were less likely to report being depressed, less likely to experience problems like high cholesterol, and therefore less likely to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. During the study it was observed that being depressed increases the risk of having abdominal fat and perhaps having insulin resistance, both conditions that are risk factors for potentially dangerous metabolic syndrome.

As for why women aren’t getting those important 30 minutes per day of exercise, there are several explanations …

Some experts suggest that it is around 5 to 6 years when exercise patterns begin and, since parents are often more concerned about the safety of girls, they restrict their activity more than that of boys. Another suggestion is that women who are caregivers simply cannot find more than 18 minutes per day of time for themselves. Many cannot even find that.

Not only will exercise help keep your body healthy and your weight in check, but it will also reduce your risk of metabolic syndrome. This is the name for a group of indicators (high cholesterol and blood pressure, extra body weight) that increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even a debilitating stroke.

The take-home message from work: Women should make an effort to get the recommended amount of exercise (30 minutes or more) a day. It should be of moderate or vigorous intensity and should not include time spent heating or cooling. Even ten minutes at a time is fine … if that’s all that can fit in for now. Just make sure you end the day having hit the all-important 30 minute mark.

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