Another big component that influences our wellbeing is physical activity. Now the sedentary lifestyle is even called ‘the new killer’, therefore we should aim to move more and sit less.
Physical activity and body
When we exercise, a few biological processes are happening, which diminish the risk of developing chronic diseases. For example, regular sport decreases low-density lipoprotein (LDL) (“bad” cholesterol) and increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL) (“good” cholesterol) concentrations, decreases blood pressure, improves blood circulation, reduces inflammation, improves insulin sensitivity and glucose homeostasis (Warburton et al., 2006). Strength training with weights, resistance band or any sports with resistance, where muscles contract, increases bone density and lean muscle mass. With age, both become weaker, softer, and the so-called sarcopenia – loss of muscle mass associated with ageing – occurs (Iolascon et al., 2014). Not to mention benefits to mental health as during exercise, many hormones and neurochemicals are released, such as endorphins which can elevate our mood (Crone et al., 2006).
World Health Organisation (2020) for adults recommends:
- do at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity a week.
- OR at least 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, which strengthens the heart, throughout the week. Activity examples – speed walking, swimming, basketball and others.
- aerobic activity should last longer than 10 minutes to provide health benefits.
- at least 2 times a week strengthen the major muscle groups using weights, resistance bands, do bodyweight exercises.
How do these recommendations look in daily life?
If you move at least 30 minutes a day, you are already doing your body a big favour. 30 minutes can be collected really easy – you can walk or cycle to the job, if you live far away, leave the car further from work and walk the rest of the route at a higher pace. It will be easier to stay motivated if you exercise with a friend or with a group led by a charismatic coach. Studies proved, that people who feel supported by their environment, are twice more likely to be physically active and are more committed to sport compared to those, who are not supported by their environment (Ståhl et al., 2001). It is also helpful to set fitness goals – this way you can track your progress, and after completing your goal, the motivation to try harder will be even stronger. Keep in mind that goals must be aligned with your fitness journey – in the beginning, they should be quite easy to reach so you would stay motivated. Step by step you will reach that goal anyway and during this journey, sport should become a pleasant habit in your daily life.
It is worth mentioning that the way we spend our whole day is much more important than that one vigorous exercise slot. If sport or movement, in general, takes only 30 minutes a day and the rest of the day we spent sedentary and barely move, that is no good for our body. It is better to take short breaks every hour – get up and stretch, increase blood flow, and take a walk after lunch. In this way, you will not feel sleepy, plus you collect those extra steps.
Any physical activity is better than none, thus movement should be a daily part of our lives. We encourage you to find pleasure in exercise because as they say, better late than never!
- Crone, D., Smith, A. and Gough, B. 2006. The physical activity and mental health relationship-a contemporary perspective from qualitative research. Acta Univ. Palacki. Olomuc., Gymn. 36(3), pp.29–35.
- Iolascon, G., Di Pietro, G., Gimigliano, F., Mauro, G.L., Moretti, A., Giamattei, M.T., Ortolani, S., Tarantino, U. and Brandi, M.L. 2014. Physical exercise and sarcopenia in older people: Position paper of the Italian Society of Orthopaedics and Medicine (OrtoMed). Clinical Cases in Mineral and Bone Metabolism. 11(3), pp.215–221.
- Ståhl, T., Rütten, A., Nutbeam, D., Bauman, A., Kannas, L., Abel, T., Lüschen, G., Rodriquez, D.J.A., Vinck, J. and Van Der Zee, J. 2001. The importance of the social environment for physically active lifestyle - Results from an international study. Social Science and Medicine. 52(1), pp.1–10.
- Warburton, D.E.R., Nicol, C.W. and Bredin, S.S.D. 2006. Health benefits of physical activity: The evidence. CMAJ. 174(6), pp.801–809.
- WHO 2020. Physical activity. [Accessed 13 May 2021]. Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity.