Regular and adequate amounts of physical activity can help to reduce the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, certain types of cancers, depression and also help to reduce risk of falls. On the other hand, lack of physical activity has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, as it has been estimated as the main cause of certain cancers, diabetes and heart disease.
According to the World Health Organization physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure. Physical activity does include exercise but does not necessarily has to be in the form of exercise. Exercise is just more structured, planned, repetitive and purposeful in its results.
According to the British Heart Foundation, regular physical activity can lower the risk of heart and circulatory disease by 35%.
When we are active, the heat produced by our muscles increases our body temperature, making us feel warmer. Our heart starts to beat faster, pumping more blood to the muscles that are being used. Let’s remember, our heart is also a muscle, and once we are active regularly it also gets stronger.
As the muscles work harder they require more oxygen. As a result, we start to breath faster, and the blood picks up more oxygen from the lungs. Once the blood has picked up oxygen, it moves to the muscles that are being used, giving them the extra oxygen they need. If you are active regularly, more capillaries start to grow in the muscles that you have been using. This is one reason why activity becomes easier after a while.
How much physical activity is enough?
It is recommended that we should be active for at least 150 minutes per week. We can break this up into 30 minutes intervals during a 5-day period. Also those 30 minutes can further be broken into 15, 10 or even 5 minutes intervals through a day.
Aerobic exercises which would include, walking, running, cycling and swimming are amongst those that provide the greatest benefits. These types of activities boost blood flow around the body, strengthen the heart and over time reduces the resting heart rate.
Resting heart rate is a good indicator of overall health. An average person with good health has between 60 to 100 heart beats per minute. Healthy athletes can have their heart rate as low as 35 beats per minute. Reducing your resting heart rate is an excellent way to maintain health, vitality and fitness.
To measure the resting heart rate, simply sit quietly and comfortably in a chair for 5 to 10 minutes without doing anything, then place your first two fingers on the carotid artery in the neck and measure how many heart beats you feel per minute.
Always remember to consult with your doctor before engaging into any type of physical activity especially if you have any specific health problem. Please note that moderation should always be practiced, as we are not advocating that you exercise to the point of exhaustion. You want to do adjustments in the intensity of your physical activities over a period of time. This is referred to as the “dose effect”, meaning the more you exercise the greater the benefits. These include improvements in stress levels, sleep patterns and especially in heart health.