The latest guidelines for physical activity in the US advise that adults lift weights at least twice a week and recommend 180 minutes of physical activity for adolescents.
Here we go again. The Department of Health and Human Services has just published a new edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans . What they hear are the recipients sighing in chorus.
Let’s be honest: the patterns of physical activity can be hard. As behavioral scientists with experience in the motivation to exercise that we are, we recognize before anyone else that maintaining a physically active lifestyle is not easy. We do it and, even so, we do not always meet the objectives. Life is complicated, and often intervenes even in the best intentions. Let’s take a deep breath, open the new guidelines and talk about strategies.
The new guidelines recommend that adults weekly do a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity at an intensity that increases heart rate. Older people should add exercises for balance. In addition, with the exception of pregnant or lactating women, it is advisable that, at least twice a week, they lift weights using the main muscle groups.
For the first time, the guidelines do not require physical activity to be carried out in periods of 10 or more consecutive minutes in order to be valid. All activity counts
They also encourage school-age children and teenagers to do 180 minutes of physical activity a week, while preschoolers should be active all day. At this time you must be wondering who has time for so much exercise.
The good news
The good news is that the current document recognizes that there is no need to fit large blocks of time dedicated to exercise into the agenda to obtain health benefits. For the first time, the guidelines do not require physical activity to be carried out in periods of 10 or more consecutive minutes in order to be valid. All activity counts. Therefore, whenever it is done by increasing the heart rate, going up and down the stairs on a daily basis at work adds up to meet the goal.
The guide also emphasizes the message “move more and spend less time sitting” to encourage everyone to do a little more physical activity and stay a little less seated. Exercise is not all or nothing. Each granite provides health benefits, so if compliance with the guidelines seems unattainable, nothing happens. It is enough that I try to do a little more than yesterday. Improving is a success whether you comply with the recommendations or not.
But how? And when?
If you think the guidelines are excessive, you are not the only one. This is one of the complaints we have heard most often from the thousands of people we have studied and attended in our physical exercise programs. People often feel helpless when it comes to drastically changing their lifestyle. One way to deal with a major goal is to divide it into smaller parts.
Think of a marathon runner. No rookie starts running the 42 kilometers. Everyone has to add up to reach them. Brokers divide that colossal goal into shorter segments that are steadily increasing over many months. We can address the new physical activity guidelines as well . Observing our progress, setting increasingly demanding goals and celebrating the most marked achievements we can move towards the achievement of the great goal.
The first goal you set should be so easy as to make you think it is outrageously simple. Suppose you practice 30 minutes of exercise a week. Could it increase to 35 minutes during the next three weeks? Once you have meticulously met the 35 minutes for two or three weeks, stretch them to 40. The idea is to move forward little by little, getting used to each step before giving the next. With each of them, in addition, improve their physical condition and their preparation, so the next will not be much harder than the previous one. In addition, from the point of view of time management, sneaking here and there for five minutes is much easier than taking time in blocks of 30 or 60 minutes.
If at this moment it is far from 150 minutes, forget about them for now. Set yourself an exaggeratedly easy goal and continue from there. You can control your progress using devices to carry positions, applications for mobile, or the traditional, but always useful, pencil and paper. No matter how you control your progress; the important thing is to have a plan to adjust to and keep trying to raise the bar, very little by little.
The best you can do for your health
Experts say that physical activity is the “star purchase” of public health. The guidelines, moreover, are based on the evidence provided by thousands of studies . Based on them, a group of experts concluded that exercise prolongs life, prevents stealthy annual weight gain and reduces the risk of suffering from almost any chronic disease, such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and many cancers. No other behavior can do so much for our health. If today we invest some time in exercise, in the future we will collect the revenues. Imagine it as a pension plan for a healthy and happy life whose benefits increase over time.
Obviously, we do not always make decisions in our own long-term interest. We tend to seek immediate benefit, and many of the benefits of physical activity for health take years to appear. Some may be difficult to perceive, such as the prevention of heart disease.
Current studies show that regular physical activity can reduce anxiety and depression effectively, and that it produces the same effects as antidepressant medication or psychotherapy . We are just an exercise in feeling better than we feel now
Fortunately, exercise has many immediate benefits. One of the main ones is the subsequent welfare effect . After physical activity, people feel significantly more concentrated, less stressed and more energetic. In fact, current studies show that regular physical activity can reduce anxiety and depression effectively, and that it produces the same effects as antidepressant medication or psychotherapy . We are just an exercise in feeling better than we feel now.
One small warning: be careful not to make too much effort too soon. Hard exercise can be unpleasant, and most people do not repeat activities that displease them. Find something that you enjoy and keep having fun with it if you want the change in behavior to be lasting. When you hear the news about new physical activity guidelines, try not to let them discourage you. For the moment, ignore the numbers and ask yourself how you can move a little more and sit a little less, and how to make it fun.
And he already has it.