Why Be Physically Active? The benefits of physical activity

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- May is National Physical Activity Month. While it's no secret regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health we sometimes need a reminder of the exact benefits.   

Regular physical activity can help:
*Manage weight
*Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
*Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
*Reduce the risk of some cancers
*Strengthen muscles and bone
*Improve mood and mental health
*Improve the ability to do daily activities and prevent falls, if you're an older adult
*Increase the chances of living longer

If you're worried about becoming active or boosting physical activity because of possible injury, the good news is moderately-intense aerobic activity, like brisk walking, is generally safe for most people but, remember:

Start slowly. Cardiac events, such as heart attacks, are rare during physical activity but, the risk does go up when you start suddenly. Start slowly and gradually increase your level of activity.

*If you have a chronic health issue* such as arthritis, diabetes or heart disease, talk with your doctor to find out if the condition limits your ability to be active. Then, work with your doctor to come up with a plan that matches your abilities. If your condition stops you from meeting the minimum guidelines, ask how much is safe for you and do as much as you can. What's important is to avoid being inactive. Even as little as 60 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity is good for you.

So now let's look at ways that physical activity improves health by reviewing information from both the National Institute of Health and the National Physical Activity Society:

Helps manage weight
Both good nutrition and physical activity play a critical role in controlling your weight. You gain weight when the calories burned are less than the calories consumed. For more information, talk with your doctor or stop by the Health and Wellness Center to explore one of the free weight management  programs.

Remember, when it comes to weight management, it's not one size fits all; people vary greatly in how much physical activity they need depending on goals.

To maintain weight: Work up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or an equivalent mix of the two each week. Strong scientific evidence shows physical activity can help maintain weight over time.

To lose weight and keep it off: You will need a high amount of physical activity unless you also adjust your diet and reduce the amount of calories consumed. Getting to and staying at a healthy weight requires both regular physical activity and a healthy eating plan. The HAWC has some great tools and information about nutrition, physical activity and weight loss.

Helps reduce Cardiovascular Disease Risk
Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the United States, but getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity can put you at a lower risk for those diseases. You can reduce your risk further with even more physical activity. Regular activity can lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels. There's a class for that as well, taught by the 78th Medical Group Disease Management nurses. Call the HAWC for dates and times.

Helps reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome Regular physical activity can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a condition in which you have some combination of too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, or high blood sugar. Research shows that lower rates of these conditions are seen with 120 to 150 minutes a week of at least moderate-intensity aerobic activity and the more physical activity you do, the lower your risk will be.

Already have type 2 diabetes? Regular physical activity and proper nutrition can help control blood glucose levels. To find out more, enroll in one of the monthly Diabetic Nutrition Classes through the HAWC.

Helps reduce the risk of some cancers
*Physically active people have a lower risk of colon cancer than people who are not active.
*Physically active people have a lower risk of breast cancer than people who are not active.  
*Physical activity may help reduce your risk of endometrial and lung cancer. Although the research is not yet final, some findings suggest that your risk of endometrial and lung cancer may be lower with regular physical activity.

Improve your quality of life. If you're a cancer survivor, research shows regular physical activity not only improves quality of life, but also improves fitness.

Helps strengthen muscle and bones
As we age, it's important to protect bones, joints and muscles because they not only support our bodies and help us move, but keeping them healthy ensures that you're able to do daily activities and be physically active. Research shows that aerobics, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening physical activity of at least a moderately-intense level can slow the loss of bone density.

*Regular physical activity helps with arthritis and other conditions affecting the joints. If you have arthritis, research shows that doing 130 to 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity, low-impact aerobic activity can not only improve pain management and the ability to do everyday tasks, it can also improve quality of life.
*Regular physical activity builds strong, healthy muscles. Muscle-strengthening activities can help increase or maintain muscle mass and strength while slowly increasing the amount of weight and number of repetitions no matter what your age is.

Helps improve mood and mental health
Regular physical activity can help keep thinking, learning and judgment skills sharp as you age. It can also reduce the risk of depression and may help with sleep. Research has shown that doing aerobics or a mix of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities three to five times a week for 30 to 60 minutes can give these mental health benefits.

Helps improve ability to do everyday activities, prevent falls
A functional limitation is a loss of the ability to do everyday activities such as climbing stairs, grocery shopping or playing with children. If you're a physically active middle-aged or older adult, you have a lower risk of functional limitations than people who are inactive. If you are already having trouble doing everyday activities, aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities can help improve the ability to do these types of tasks. If you are an older adult who is at risk for falls, doing balance and muscle-strengthening activities each week along with moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking, can help reduce the risk of falling.
Helps increase chance of living longer
Physical activity can reduce your risk of dying early from heart disease and some cancers. People who are physically active for about seven hours a week have a 40 percent lower risk of dying early than those who are active for less than 30 minutes a week. If you don't think that's where you are at yet, keep in mind that you don't have to do high amounts of activity or vigorous-intensity activity to reduce your risk of premature death; you can put yourself at lower risk of dying early just by doing at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.

Everyone can gain the health benefits of physical activity - age, ethnicity, shape or size do not matter so take advantage of all the activities and facilities at Robins to stay active. Between the HAWC and fitness centers, Robins has something for everyone.

Whether it's a recreational activity like bowling or golfing, utilizing the weights, cardio machines, basketball courts or pool at the fitness center, participating in some of the intramural sports activities or walking/ running/ or biking the 5K nature trail while participating in fun runs and HAWC/ Fitness Center Events, Robins has something for everyone.