Five scientific tips to facilitate exercise

Five scientific tips to facilitate exercise

There is rarely enough time in the day to accomplish everything we plan to do, and when time is short, physical exercise is often sacrificed. US guidelines recommend including two and a half hours of moderate physical activity in our lives each week — and finding time for weight training.

I sometimes find it hard to follow this guideline, and I’m not the only one. In 2020, only 25% of adults in the United States followed these recommendations. That’s why I was interested in the research: How much physical activity does a person need to live longer and reduce the risk of chronic disease? How often do you really need to exercise?

Here are some research-based ideas that might get you more excited about the idea of ​​exercise.

Your workouts can be short

The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, with activities such as cycling or swimming. This corresponds to just over 20 minutes a day. You can benefit even if you do less, said Ai Min Lee, a public health researcher who studies exercise at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Lee told me that the first 20 minutes of physical activity per session confers the greatest health benefits, at least in terms of longevity. When you continue thereafter, the payoff decreases in terms of tangible health outcomes.

A study published in March estimated that 111 lives could be saved each year if Americans over the age of 40 got ten minutes more exercise per day than they currently exercise.

But what if you only have five or ten minutes to exercise? deepen. “A lot of things happen in the body from the second you start exercising,” explained Carol Ewing Garber, an expert in human movement sciences at Teachers College at Columbia University.

And you can experience mental health benefits, including reduced anxiety and better sleep, right after moderate to intense physical activity.

The workouts don’t have to be intense.

If the thought of high-intensity interval training and hard-core training classes makes you want to run away, don’t worry. You don’t have to sweat a lot or feel tired after a workout to reap some of the benefits.

Any physical activity that makes your heart beat a little faster is beneficial. If you’ve never monitored your heart rate while exercising, it may be worth a try. For moderate exercise, the recommended goal is to reach approximately 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate. (To calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220.) Many people achieve this goal with brisk walking, said Beth Lewis, a sports and exercise physiologist at the University of Minnesota.

Estimating your maximum heart rate can help you assess how difficult it is to walk, run or bike. But it is not ideal, because the normal heart rate when exercising can be higher or lower.

Additionally, fitness levels and heart rate can vary between people of the same age, and not all types of exercise raise heart rate equally. It may be appropriate to talk to your doctor before setting your goals.

“Just moving the body somehow would be beneficial,” Garber said. “This is a really important message.”

Focus on health, not weight loss

Many people exercise with the goal of losing weight, but increasing your physical activity usually doesn’t work.

In a 2011 review of 14 published scientific papers, scientists found that people with large bodies who did aerobic exercise for at least two hours a week lost just 1.5 kg over a six-month period.

And in a small 2018 clinical trial, women who did intense circuit training three times a week experienced no significant weight loss after eight weeks (but did gain muscle).

Exercise improves overall health, and studies show it has a greater impact on life expectancy than body type. Regardless of your measurements, exercise lowers your risk of heart disease, some types of cancer, depression, type 2 diabetes, anxiety and insomnia, Lewis said.

Exercising only on the weekends is also good.

I’ve always assumed that healthier people exercise nearly every day, but research suggests that’s not the case.

In a study published last month, researchers followed more than 350,000 healthy American adults for an average of 10 years or more. They found that people who exercised at least 150 minutes a week on one or two days a week were no more likely to die from any cause than those who accumulated 150 minutes a week in shorter sessions. Other studies by Lee and colleagues have reached similar conclusions.

When it comes to living longer, he told me, “it’s the total amount of activity per week that makes the difference.” But she noted that if you exercise often, you are less likely to hurt yourself.

Stretching is optional

Recommendations to stretch before and after workouts bother me, especially if I have a short time. But research suggests that stretching does not actually reduce the risk of injury. “In the past, stretching was seen as a necessary part of your exercise session: ‘If you don’t stretch, you’re going to hurt yourself,'” Lewis said. “This idea is wrong.”

Instead of static stretching — doing things like push-ups to put your hands on your feet — Lewis recommends doing dynamic stretches before exercise, such as standing up and gently rocking each leg back and forth.

But she did explain that static stretching can help improve muscle flexibility and joint mobility. Anyway, I now know I don’t have to worry if I don’t have time to stretch.

Translated by Clara Allen

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