Do you really need to start exercising, but hate it? Just move – Harvard Gazette

Another in a series of articles about resetting our lives for a healthy 2023.

If the thought of lacing up running shoes, wrapping yourself in spandex, and doing laps, reps, and sets makes you cringe, just get moving.

If you think boot camp is for soldiers and “plyometrics” means nothing to you, move on.

If you need to improve your numbers — not fun like scoops of ice cream on top of a cone (waffle, please), but serious, like diastolic and systolic, LDL and HDL — just get moving.

This is the advice of I-Min Lee, professor of epidemiology at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Healthand medicine at Harvard Medical School and to Brigham and Women’s HospitalPreventive Medicine Division. Lee said what’s important for health isn’t necessarily physical “exercise,” it’s physical activity: moving your muscles and expending energy as much as you can. If the question is how much is enough to improve your health, the answer – especially if you’re doing little now – is simple: more.

“Exercise is great for those who can and want to do it, but ‘exercise’ isn’t necessary for the health benefits. All physical activity is healthy, and physical activity is what we do in everyday life,” Lee said. “We don’t need to ‘exercise’ to get health benefits.”

That should be good news for about three quarters of us. Despite being bombarded with messages about the health benefits of exercise, most American adults don’t exercise, or at least not enough to meet the US Department of Health and Human Services. guidelines.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, only 24.2% of adults 18 and older meet recommendations for aerobic activity and muscle building. These suggest 2½ to 5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity like brisk walking, along with muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week.

Lee said which activities you do and how many depend on why you become active. Some want to get in shape so that the walk around the block can evolve into a mountain hike. Others want to lose weight, and still others worry about diseases that become more common with age, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

“’Couch to 5k’ might suit someone who wants to do a 5k. For health, I would approach it very differently: the goal is just to get started,” Lee said.

Christina Ruggeri, advanced clinician at Spaulding Ambulatory Center in Salem, part of Mass General Brighamsaid that if you’ve been sedentary for a long time, approach increasing activity levels as you would cooking in a slow cooker: “low and slow.”

Ruggeri said government guidelines amount to 30 minutes, five times a week, but people who have been sedentary for quite a while — and COVID has brought many of us into that category — should remember that. is a daily total. It’s fine if you’re aiming for a 10-minute walk a day coupled with two other 10-minute bouts of exercise, she said.

“It’s just something to get the heart rate up,” Ruggeri said. “To break it down even further, it doesn’t have to be 30 straight minutes.”

The long-time sedentary, Ruggeri said, can even start doing lying exercise — leg raises, bridges and working with resistance bands — to build up strength before starting weight-bearing moves like push-ups. standing steps and squats. Even a walk around the grocery store can be used to work on balance, such as standing on one foot while holding the cart handle. Aquatherapy can also be helpful, Ruggeri said, because the water helps support your weight. And once you get started, she says, listen to your body and take the day off if you feel tired.

“It all depends on where they come from physically. What are you able to tolerate, what pre-existing conditions do you have? said Ruggeri. “If you go from zero to 1,000, it’s probably too much, too soon.”

Ruggeri suggests trying different things until you find something you like. Some facilities have workout rooms, swimming pools, and exercise bikes, while a simple walk around the neighborhood or to the local mall can get you started.

“Walking is good for everyone,” Ruggeri said. “If you like it, you’re going to keep doing it.”

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