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Fitness for Life

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. Designated by the President’s Council on Fitness, it’s been celebrated since 1983. The goal, then and now, is to promote healthy lifestyles and quality of life for all Americans.

Life is all about choices.

When we make a choice to be physically active, it’s a positive life-affirming move. Consider the benefits:

  • Lower risk for chronic problems like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes
  • Manage weight
  • Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Strengthen muscles, bones, and joints
  • Improve mood

Here are a few thought-provoking statistics:

  • Only one in three children are physically active every day.
  • Over 80 percent of adults do not meet the recommended guidelines for weekly aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
  • 28 percent of all Americans aged six and older are physically inactive.
  • Children spend nearly eight hours a day in front of a TV screen, computer or videogame.
  • Only 18 percent of Americans aged 15 or older exercise on a given day.
  • Nationwide, 26 percent of people with a disability report being physically inactive during the week, twice as many as people without a disability.
  • By 2030, it is projected nearly half of all American adults, approximately 115 million, will be classified as obese.

To get moving, make small changes in your daily habits:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Brown bag lunch to eat outdoors and follow it with a brisk walk.
  • Park farther away when shopping at the grocery store.
  • Take a walk after dinner or go for a bike ride as a family.
  • Substitute a hike for a day binge-watching TV
  • Choose an activity you enjoy so you’ll keep doing it.
  • Join a group or find an exercise buddy to stay motivated.

How much activity is needed? To see results, adults should participate in 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise plus two sessions of strength training each week. It is preferable to break this into smaller chunks of time, as little as 20 minutes a session.

All kinds of physical activity count! The point is we must get off the couch and move.

For some, physical activity is about chores like cleaning the house, washing the car, and doing yard maintenance. A game of pickup basketball, taking a Zumba or Jazzercise class, or joining a beach volleyball game offers a triple benefit -- having fun, connecting with others, and improving health.

It’s best to combine and practice various types of physical exercise:

  • Endurance or aerobic activities increase breathing and heart rate. Brisk walking, jogging, swimming, and biking benefits circulation and improve overall fitness.
  • Strength or resistance training like lifting weights and using a resistance band makes muscles stronger. 
  • Balance exercises help improve the ability to walk on uneven surfaces and help prevent falls. Try tai chi or yoga poses like standing on one leg.
  • Flexibility exercises stretch the muscles. Yoga and controlled stretches promote and help the body stay limber.

Studies show activities we favor change with age and ability. Those aged 15 to 24 like team sports. From age 25 to 54, yoga, running, and hiking is favored. After 55, most adults choose to golf or walk for exercise.

Overall, 30 percent of all adults choose walking for exercise followed by weightlifting, using cardiovascular equipment and running. Bowling, swimming, surfing and water skiing are other favorite gender-neutral activities. Men like active sports like football, basketball, golf, and soccer while women elect yoga and aerobics for fitness.

Stay physically active and benefit from more energy, productivity, and good health. Your body will thank you!

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