Fitness; Facts to Know

Fitness; Facts to Know

Studies find that walking at a brisk pace for three or more hours a week or exercising vigorously for 1.5 hours a week can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease 30 to 40 percent.

Thirty-nine percent of women age 18 and over get insufficient physical activity, 14 percent are never active at all, and more than 53 percent of women don’t meet the recommended amounts of exercise per day.

Less than half of adults engage in regular, leisure-time physical activity (light-to-moderate activity at least five times per week for at least 30 minutes each time, or vigorous activity at least three times per week for at least 20 minutes each time).

No matter how poor your current fitness level, you can start an exercise routine and become fitter and healthier. Even 90-year-old women who use walkers have been shown to benefit from light weight training.

Simply adding movement to your daily routine can increase your level of fitness. For example, if you park in the last row of the parking lot and walk briskly five minutes each way between your office and your car, walk up and down the stairs at your office during your 10-minute afternoon coffee break and walk the dog for 10 minutes when you get home, you’ve already racked up 30 minutes of exercise.

Women with heart disease or arthritis actually experience improved daily function from involvement in various modes of physical activity.

Fitness consists of five components: your body’s ability to use oxygen as a source of energy, which translates into cardiovascular fitness; muscular strength; endurance; flexibility; and body composition.

To address all the components of fitness, an exercise program needs to include aerobic exercise, which is continuous repetitive movement of large muscle groups that raises your heart rate; weight lifting or strength training; and flexibility exercises or stretching.

Walking at a brisk pace (a 15-minute mile or 4 mph) burns almost as many calories as jogging the same distance, and both walking and jogging benefit the bones. The advantage of jogging is that it takes less time to cover the same distance; however, it may be too strenuous for some.

It takes about 12 weeks after starting an exercise program to see measurable changes in your body. Before 12 weeks, you will notice an increase in your strength and endurance.

To reduce the risk of chronic disease, the departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture and other professional groups recommend that healthy women do some sort of aerobic exercise on most or all days of the week for 30 minutes. To manage body weight and prevent weight gain, women should exercise moderately to vigorously for 60 minutes most days of the week, and to sustain weight loss, the recommendations are for 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.

Strength training should take about 20 to 30 minutes for each session, and you should stretch at least 30 minutes, but even five minutes of stretching after exercise is better than none.

References

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“U.S. Physical Activities Statistics.” The Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated May 2007. http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov. Accessed October 2007.

Jakicic JM, et al. “Effect of Exercise Duration and Intensity on Weight Loss in Overweight, Sedentary Women” JAMA. 2003;290: 1323-1330. http://jama.ama-assn.org. Accessed September 2003.

“What are some tips for being more active?” National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated Feb. 2003. http://www.cdc.gov. Accessed August 2003.

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“Healthy eating tips.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov. Updated April 2003. Accessed Aug. 2003.

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“Physical Activity: AHA scientific position.” American Heart Association. 2007. http://www.americanheart.org. Accessed February 2007.

“Chapter 4: Physical Activity.” Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, U.S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.health.gov. Accessed February 2007.

“Target Heart Rates.” American Heart Association. 2007. Accessed February 2007.

“Strength Training: Get stronger, leaner, and healthier.” The Mayo Clinic. July 2006. http://www.mayoclinic.com. Accessed February 2007.

“Aerobics & Your Feet” American Podiatric Medical Association 2007. http://www.apma.org. Accessed February 2007.

“ACE Yoga Study.” The American Council on Exercise. 2007. http://www.acefitness.org. Accessed February 2007.

“Strength Training 101.” The American Council on Exercise. 2007. http://www.acefitness.org. Accessed February 2007.

“Pilates Primer” The American Council on Exercise. 2007. http://www.acefitness.org. Accessed February 2007.

“Types of Exercise.” American Diabetes Association. 2007. http://www.diabetes.org. Accessed February 2007.

“Getting Started.” American Diabetes Association. 2007. http://www.diabetes.org. Accessed February 2007.

“Physical Activity Among Adults: United States, 2000 and 2005.” The National Center for Health Statistics. 2007. http://www.cdc.gov. Accessed February 2007.

“Physical inactivity and your heart.” American Heart Association. 2007. www.americanheart.org. Accessed February 2007.

“Flexible benefits.” The American Council on Exercise. 2007. http://www.acefitness.org. Accessed February 2007.

“Exercise During Pregnancy.” Harvard University Health Services. 2003. http://huhs.harvard.edu. Accessed February 2007.

“Risk Factors.” The University of Virginia Health System. 2007. http://www.healthsystem.virginia.edu. Accessed February 2007.

Keywords: fitness, heart disease, level of fitness, physical activity

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