FRIDAY, Sept. 2 (HealthDay News) -- It would be hard, these
days, not to have heard that regular exercise can provide
innumerable health benefits and help people enjoy longer, happier
and more active lives.
What's more, fitness experts have determined that people don't
have to work themselves to exhaustion or set aside large chunks of
time to reap the benefits.
Nonetheless, large numbers of people are either getting no
exercise at all or are getting too little to do themselves any
good, health experts say.
So why aren't more people getting off the couch and moving?
A lot of it has to do with time, said Michael R. Bracko, a
sports physiologist and director of the Institute for Hockey
Research in Calgary, Canada. Not just the amount of time people
have, but also the amount of time they
think they have.
"In this day and age, with all the stuff we have going on, probably the number one reason is perceived lack of time," Bracko said. "People don't view exercise or physical activity as important enough to schedule it within their day. They can't find the time to work out. They've got kids, they're driving around, they're working, they're commuting."
However, health experts stress that participation in regular
physical activity can reap a ream of health benefits.
Physical activity helps the body regulate blood sugar levels and
lower blood pressure, reducing the chances of developing diabetes
or heart disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention. Studies have shown that physical activity also
maintains healthy muscles, bones and joints, and can slow the
deteriorating effects of aging.
Further, exercise improves a person's overall mood by prompting
the release of hormones that reduce feelings of anxiety and
depression, the CDC says. Some research has even found that
exercise helps keep the mind sharp, improving memory and
potentially helping to ward off dementia in old age.
Despite all this good news about exercise, a 2008 CDC survey
revealed that more than a quarter of American adults did not spend
any free time doing physical activities such as running, gardening,
golfing or walking.
In a more recent survey, just 5 percent of American adults
reported engaging in vigorous physical activity, such as running or
using cardiovascular exercise equipment, in the previous 24 hours,
according to a study published last fall in the
American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Bracko said he believes that not only do many people have busy
schedules but that they still "don't understand or appreciate how
much physical activity can have a positive impact on their
The CDC has set guidelines for the amount of exercise that
people at various stages of their lives need to remain healthy:
- Kids 6 to 17 years old should get about an hour of physical
activity every day.
- Adults 18 on up should partake in at least 150 minutes of
moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, or 75
minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, every week. In
addition, at least two days a week they should do
muscle-strengthening activities that work all the major muscle
Finding the willpower to set aside this time can be very
personal, and people may need to do a little soul-searching to
figure out what matters most to them, said Barbara Ainsworth, a
professor of exercise and wellness at Arizona State University.
"Everybody has different points that get them to be motivated," Ainsworth said. "It's important to find the triggers that resonate for you."
For some people, it's a doctor's report saying that they are
headed for chronic disease if they don't shape up, she said. Others
want to look better or improve their athletic ability. Some work
out for stress relief or enjoy the social setting that group
To fit exercise into daily life, Bracko and Ainsworth
- Taking a step back and understanding that fitness is as
important a priority as other leisure activities, such as
television or reading. "We're busy because we choose to do certain
things," Ainsworth said. "It's about making different
- Realizing that exercise can be broken into blocks of 10 to 15
minutes that can be fit in throughout the day. Bracko gives the
example of soccer moms who take their kid to games. "They don't
realize that's a great time to exercise," he said. But for those
who do, "instead of standing on the sidelines, they're walking
around the field or running intervals or something," he said.
- Recruiting an exercise buddy who will help maintain motivation.
"If you make a date with someone to go on a walk, you don't want to
disappoint that person," Ainsworth said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a guide for
becoming active, healthier and happier.
A companion article describes how a
joining a gym might help you get up and get