What comes to mind when somebody says the word “physical activity”? Do you think of the walk you took to get from the garage to work this morning? Or the stairs you climbed on your way out of the subway? What about the word “exercise”? If this word provokes different thoughts I am not surprised. You might have visions of sweating it out in spin class and loving every second of it, or maybe you have a feeling of dread as you picture dragging yourself to the gym. In celebration of May’s National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, I want to tell you that physical activity is what matters! You might spend an hour in the gym, but what happens during the other 23 hours is crucial. Picture your typical day, you sit as you eat breakfast, you may sit as you commute to work, sit at a desk, sit at lunch, go to the gym for an hour, then sit at the dinner table or in front of the TV. Even athletes can be considered sedentary if their only physical activity is during the hours when they are exercising!
This month, challenge yourself to think about physical activity as a way of life. What errands can you run on foot today? If you have a phone call to make, can you do it while walking or pacing? If you are stuck at your desk for hours in a row, can you make a point to stand up and stretch every hour? Can you stretch while you watch TV at night?
If you need some motivation…
Here are some fun facts on how physical activity can help prevent or reduce health conditions:
High blood pressure: Two brisk 10-minute walks a day can help to prevent high blood pressure. Think of this like your daily dose of movement medicine. As you start your walk, your body sends blood that contains oxygen and energy to your muscles so that they can propel you forward. This rush of blood exerts pressure on your veins causing them to loosen slightly so that more blood can flow through. By asking your veins to loosen twice a day every day, you are preventing stiffness!
High blood sugar: After you eat a meal that is high in carbohydrates your body will digest those carbohydrates and turn them in to sugar which will stay in your blood stream until your cells take it up for energy. If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes this state of high blood sugar can make you feel pretty icky. Luckily, physical activity can help you to bring down your sugar. Going for a walk after a large meal can help your cells to take up the sugar and leave you feeling much better!