Exercise, exercise, exercise; right up there with a healthy diet and not smoking, exercise is one of the most important components we can control in an effort to increase longevity. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes that adults who are physically active have a lower risk of premature death, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type-2 diabetes and depression.
Government guidelines recommend two and a half hours (150 minutes) of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week for people between the ages of 18-64. But what exactly is moderate aerobic activity?
Experts measure aerobic exercise in two ways. “Absolute intensity” is the more exact – yet more complicated – way to think about it. Absolute intensity is described as the amount of energy expended per minute of activity. So, for example, moderate intensity activities expend 3.0 to 5.9 times the amount of energy expended when you are at rest, whereas the energy expenditure of vigorous intensity activities is 6.0 or more times the energy expended at rest.
Since that’s a bit abstract to calculate, exercise can also be measured in terms of “relative intensity,” which takes one’s present physical condition into consideration. With relative intensity, sitting is 0 and the highest level of effort is 10; thus, moderate activity is around 5 or 6. Since that can still be tricky to gauge, experts recommend using the “talk test.” You should be able to talk while doing moderate aerobic exercise, but not able to sing. If you are not able to say a few words without pausing for a breath, you have moved into the category of vigorous intensity activity.
The beauty of moderate aerobic exercise is that it’s ... moderate! You don’t need to run marathons for improved health. The requirements can be met by doing the things many of us do already. Consider the following examples of activities that fit the bill:
1. Bicycling (slower than 10 mph and few hills)
2. Brisk walking (at 3-4 mph)
4. Gardening (raking, bagging grass, digging, gentle hoeing, weeding, etc.)
5. Golf (carrying clubs or using a wheeled cart)
6. Playing actively with children
7. Pushing a lawn mower
8. Shoveling light snow
9. Social dancing
11. Tennis (doubles)
12. Water aerobics
And now that you see how easy moderate aerobic exercise can be, keep in mind that as a person moves from 150 minutes a week toward 300 minutes a week, the benefits become even more extensive. If you prefer vigorous intensity aerobic exercise – like singles tennis, swimming laps, or jogging – the recommendation is for at least 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) per week. An equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous intensity aerobic activity will serve the same benefits. With all activity, it’s best to spread it out over the course of the week, and aim for doing it in episodes of 10 minutes or longer.
To your health!