I just spent an amazing week at a spa near San Diego where I was able to hike, perform tai chi, yoga, dance, work out in a gym, meditate and even create art. It was a wonderful week of healing and renewal for my body and soul. Upon return, my state of “zen-hood” was altered when I discovered that only 20% of adult Americans meet federal recommendations for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity.
Although during my spa week, I didn’t have the time nor the desire to read medical journals, once home on Sunday I felt a wee bit guilty (so much for being at peace with my zen-being) and quickly glanced at my favorite journal, JAMA. And there was an article titled “US Adults Are Lax On Meeting National Exercise Guidelines”. And in my current exercise euphoric state, I just had to read the article and feel a sense of exercise superiority as I unpacked. (It was a short article.) Here is what it reported:
Only 20% of adult Americans meet federal recommendations for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity. The federal government’s physical activity guidelines for Americans recommend two hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise or an equivalent combination of both each week. Aerobic exercise can be walking, running, swimming and bicycling and should be in increments lasting at least 10 minutes spread throughout the week. They state that the health benefits of aerobic exercise include lowering the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and depression. (We also know that it significantly increases longevity, perhaps more so then any medication!) Adults should also get at least two sessions a week of muscle strengthening exercise that works the body’s major muscle groups in the legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders and arms. Working with a resistance band, lifting weights, doing push-ups and sit-ups or Pilates are a few of the recommended ways to increase bone strength and muscular fitness. Although the official physical activity guidelines don’t set a defined amount of time for this the exertion, they do state that it should be continued to the point that another repetition would be difficult. (We have all been there, after 10 or 15 reps, lifting that weight one more time or repeating that stretch is just too much of an effort.)
These woeful statistics were gathered through The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a telephone survey of adults aged 18 years or older conducted by state health departments. It showed that Colorado did best and 27% of residents met the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise. The lowest rate in the country was in Tennessee with about 13% meeting the guidelines.
Although I won’t have a chance to go back for a glorious spa week for another year, I do intend to keep up the daily walking and twice weekly muscle strengthening work out. Statistics are worrisome, but sensing how well one feels as a result of doing the “right thing” is convincing.