The definition of health has evolved in recent years. Now, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a continuum, along which the absence of disease is merely the mid-point. At one end of this continuum is morbidity and mortality, and at the other end is ‘wellness’, which equates to our capacity to overcome challenges placed on our health. Health is also more than physical – it is multi-dimensional, incorporating spiritual and psychological components in addition to the physical.
Like any industry, the fitness industry is clouded with marketing and gimmicks. It can take a degree in Kinesiology to weed out the bad from the good. Thankfully, as the fields of Biomechanics and Exercise Physiology continue to grow, we can rely on unbiased scientific research to guide our exercise choices.
A great example of this is Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines. In 1998, Canada became the first country in the world to come up with a set of national guidelines to outline requirements for the betterment of health based on scientific evidence. These were updated in 2011 and are as follows:
- To achieve health benefits, adults aged18-64 years should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity per week in bouts of 10 minutes or more.
- It is also beneficial to add muscle and bone strengthening activities, using major muscle groups, at least two days per week.
- More physical activity creates better health benefits.
It is my hope that by becoming aware of what the research says will place you in the middle of that health continuum, you will have more motivation to meet and stick with these minimum health requirements.
Think about how these guidelines would best fit into your particular lifestyle. Do you have a 20-30 minute window in your day to devote to moderate-to-vigorous cardiovascular exercise? If not, note that the time can be broken into 10 minute increments and still be beneficial. Also, it is important to realize that the activity just needs to get your heart rate up to a moderate level, so we aren’t talking about triathlons here. Hippocrates said that walking is man’s best medicine – and we now know that for every 10 minutes of walking, you add to your day, you decrease your risk for heart disease by 12%. So, maybe pick up your pace when walking that 15 minute jaunt to the bus stop, or get out on your lunch break and briskly walk (or run!) that errand. A few simple steps over your lifetime can add years to it. Good Luck!!
by Dr Erin Kempt-Sutherland, DC