Question of the Week
January 24, 2005


"The government today [January 12, 2005] urged most Americans to eat fewer calories and exercise 30 to 90 minutes a day, updating guidelines that advised people to lose weight but gave few specifics on how to do it. ... The panel recommended a minimum of at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise -- brisk walking or gardening -- on most days. But it said many adults need to exercise for 60 minutes or more to prevent weight gain, and people who have lost weight may need to exercise for 60 to 90 minutes to keep it off."

Think about the people you know. Think about yourself. How many people do you think are spending 60 - 90 (or even 30) minutes exercising each day?

In August of 2003,
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, believing earlier studies failed to accurately measure Americans' fitness because they focused on intense exercise, has lumped everyday activities such as housework and gardening with jogging and lifting weights. But even with playing with children and raking the lawn on the list of moderate-intensity activities, the 2001 phone survey released Thursday showed that 55 percent of adults still didn't get the recommended minimum: 30 minutes a day, at least four days a week."

Most people aren't getting the exercise they need. We have work, school, time with friends, and more; so, what are most people doing with their free time?

"Watching TV was the leisure activity that occupied the most time, accounting for about half of leisure time on average for both men and women.... Persons ages 15 to 24 averaged 5.5 hours of leisure time per day ... Persons ages 25 to 54 spent less time doing leisure activities but still recorded more than 4 hours per day.... Younger persons spent a relatively larger share of their time socializing, playing sports, and playing games or using a computer for leisure."

Playing sports does count as exercise, but time spent watching TV, sitting at the computer, or talking to friends does not tend to be time when a great deal of physical activity is done. So how do you take the time to exercise without missing out on all the other stuff you want to do?

"Make exercise a part of your daily schedule...
* Choose activities that you enjoy
* Have your friends as well as your family get involved with you too!
* Encourage your family to exercise together
* Balance your daily activities so you always get a healthy amount of exercise
* Have fun! Exercise doesn't have to feel like work....
* Many household activities like walking the dog, gardening or cleaning can be good forms of exercise."

Do you like to multitask? How can you make exercise one of your "tasks"?

"Go for a walk in your lunch break. ... Go for walks with friends to talk about your studies. Brainstorming about an essay as you walk around the campus can be a productive use of your time...."

Are you too stressed by all you have to work into your schedule as it is? Is the thought of trying to add one more thing just too overwhelming?

"Regular physical activity helps you feel better because it:
* lowers your stress and boosts your mood
* increases your strength
* helps control blood pressure and blood sugar
* helps build healthy bones, muscles, and joints
* helps your heart and lungs work better
* improves your self-esteem."

There are benefits now. There are benefits for the future. There are reasons to go above and beyond; there are also cautions to keep in mind when creating a workout plan.

"To reduce the risk of chronic disease in adulthood: Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, above usual activity, at work or home on most days of the week.
* For most people, greater health benefits can be obtained by engaging in physical activity of more vigorous intensity or longer duration.
* ...Some people may need to consult with a healthcare provider before participating in this level of activity.
* Achieve physical fitness by including cardiovascular conditioning, stretching exercises for flexibility, and resistance exercises or calisthenics for muscle strength and endurance."

As many in the country are digging out from a recent January snowstorm, other forms of exercise are brought to mind. Skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and -- for those who live in snow country -- shoveling are all seasonal forms of exercise that can help get people out of the house on those cold winter days.

As with anything, a balance must be found:

"Avoid overextertion [sic], such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car, or walking in deep snow. The strain from the cold and the hard labor may cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to chill and hypothermia."

This does not mean that you should not exert yourself; just be careful of overexertion (more likely for those who are older, in poor health, or out of shape). If you have neighbors (or parents) who really shouldn't be out shoveling the heavy snow, offer to do it for them. You get your exercise, and you get to help protect the health of someone else. Even if you are in good health, there are still reasons to be cautious when attempting to exercise in the cold weather.

"Wind Chill is the term used to describe the rate of heat loss on the human body resulting from the combined effect of low temperature and wind. As winds increase, heat is carried away from the body at a faster rate, driving down both the skin temperature and eventually the internal body temperature.... As with other winter weather events, advisories are issued when the wind chill is more of a nuisance rather than life-threatening. While the warnings are issued when the wind chill can be life-threatening if an individual is not properly dressed for the cold."

Even if you don't live where snow and wind chill are issues, you may have other seasonal concerns to think about at other times throughout the year. Maybe you are one who lives in a part of the country that experiences both dangerously high and dangerously low temperatures. Either way, the weather can certainly affect an exercise routine.

"Our bodies dissipate heat by varying the rate and depth of blood circulation, by losing water through the skin and sweat glands, and as a last resort, by panting, when blood is heated above 98.6°F. Sweating cools the body through evaporation. However, high relative humidity retards evaporation, robbing the body of its ability to cool itself. When heat gain exceeds the level the body can remove, body temperature begins to rise, and heat related illnesses and disorders may develop.

With all that said, it is important to remember:

"Exercise should be fun, because the more you enjoy it the more likely you are to do it regularly. So find activities you like and make them a part of your routine. ... Getting the exercise you need is easier than you might think. There are plenty of ways to add a little extra activity to your everyday routine. For instance:
* Bike or walk to class, the library, or the store.
* Park farther away than you normally would and walk.
* Choose the dining hall on the far side of campus.
* Try stretching, marching in place, or walking around during study breaks.
* Take the stairs."

Those in North Dakota may not be able to bike to class for the next couple months, and those in Arizona may not be looking forward to walking to the store in August. Wherever you are, you need to find the way to get exercise that is right for you: your climate, your needs, and your lifestyle.

Questions of the Week:
How can you figure out how much (and what kind of) exercise you currently need? How is this different for different people? What changes will you need to make to your current lifestyle to get the exercise you need? How could you arrange to get 60 - 90 minutes of exercise each day? What external influences (weather, work, school) will you need to work around? How do you need to change your exercise routine for the different seasons and for different schedules you might have at different times of year? How can you find the time and/or the place to exercise safely and effectively? In what ways can exercise be something that you do as you are "multitasking"? In what ways is it not?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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