If you have ever asked yourself just how much you should be moving, we have answers. Read ahead to find out more!
Lord Kelvin–the physicist who came up with the concept of absolute zero; the temperature at which atoms stop moving entirely–has been quoted as saying “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it”. Nowhere is this more true than when measuring and improving our own physical capacity.
The problem arises when we speak of exercise in general terms; specifically when we say that a person should move “more”. It is very easy to do this, particularly in America, where we are growing increasingly more sedentary in the workplace and at home. Fortunately, the World Health Organization (WHO) has done plenty of research on just how much movement the human machine needs to improve health outcomes and prevent disease.
According to them, people ages 18-64 should engage in 150 minutes of moderate, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week; breaking down to just a little over 20, or 10 minutes of either per day respectively. Their research indicates that bouts of activity should be no less than 10 min in duration. They also recommend a minimum of 2 days a week of muscle focused strength training exercise sessions as well.
These recommendations are all well and good, but may leave a person questioning, “Well what exactly is considered moderate, or vigorous”? Fortunately there is another tool called the Compendium of Physical Activity (CPA) that can help sort this question out.
This tool lists a wide variety of different activities and classifies them by a number called their Metabolic Equivalent of Task (or MET). The number is derived based on the amount of oxygen a person consumes while doing an activity, relative to the same amount they would spend sitting quietly–roughly 3.5 mL per kilogram of body weight per minute if you were interested.
The cool thing about this tool is that it can show you that a lot of the things that you do in your every day life already count as moderate to vigorous activity! What this should tell you is that by the time you get done taking your dog for a walk around the block, or shoveling snow off the driveway, you’ve likely already eaten into a good portion of your recommended movement for the day.
The bottom line is that the numbers proposed by the WHO may seem daunting when we look at their suggestion as meaning that we need to set aside extra time in our busy daily schedules in order to be healthy. The reality is that most things that have a MET score of 3-5 from the CPA meet the recommendations set forth by the WHO for moderate activity when performed regularly.
There are of course added benefits to additional exercise, and we should take their recommendation of adding weight training in to our regular weekly routines–particularly as we age–so that we can experience the added health benefits of movement such as:
- lower rates of all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, colon and breast cancer, and depression;
- reduced risk of a hip or vertebral fracture;
- higher levels of cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness; and
- improved weight maintenance, with healthier body mass and composition.
So take a second to check out the MET scores of the things you are already doing in your day to day life, subtract the amount of time you are doing them from the recommended minimums set fort by the WHO and go from there. It’s a fairly simplistic approach, but should give you an excellent baseline of activity that you can measure, along with idea for other activities that you could do more regularly.
You can also click here to find more information about WHO guidelines, as well as recommendations for people ages 5-17, and 65+.
Until next time. Move Well, Live Well.
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