Moving Your Body For Better Health
By Kristi Kalinsky, RD, LD
August 29, 2023
According to the Office for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, adults should be moving their bodies 150 minutes per week to achieve optimal health. While 150 minutes may sound daunting, when it is broken down, it equates to 30 minutes of movement five days per week. Today, let’s talk about why movement is important and give you some ideas on how to increase movement here and there throughout the day.
Why Physical Activity Is Recommended for Better Health
When making lifestyle changes to improve your health, adding in (or continuing) a movement habit is key. We’ve probably all heard that exercise is good for us but how exactly? Here are ten health benefits gained from 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week:
- Increases HDL (your good cholesterol)
- Lowers blood sugar numbers
- Assists with weight loss
- Strengthens bones/assists in osteoporosis prevention
- Lowers your risk of developing Alzheimer’s/Dementia
- Lowers your blood pressure
- Relieves stress
- Decreases cancer risk
- Improves sleep quality
- Improves mood and decreases feelings of anxiety or depression
My Personal Passion For Movement
As a dietitian, with a background in Exercise Science and certification in athletic training, I’ve seen firsthand how movement and exercise benefit the body. When I worked in a physical therapy clinic, I saw a patient go from barely being able to walk without pain to running in a 5K. Another client couldn’t play and lift her grandkids because of intense back and hip pain and went to being able to have a dance party with them. They both had a better quality of life after working through a cardio and strength training program, and continued to do the exercises at home on a regular basis to maintain fitness so they didn’t revert back to their previous pain.
Pair physical activity with nutrition and the benefits are enhanced even further. I currently have a client who started eating in balance every day (a protein, healthy fat and vegetable carbohydrate at every meal) and started incorporating more activity into her day. For her that included going for short walks throughout the day as well as a few strength training exercises with bands at home daily. She not only lost weight, she improved her bone strength and went from osteoporosis to osteopenia within a year’s time, and her anxiety decreased significantly. The power of food combined with physical activity is an amazing way to support your overall health.
Tips To Get Started – Every Little Bit Counts!
When you see the recommendation of 150 minutes per week, how do you feel? Do you think that even 30 minutes per day sounds challenging to accomplish in your busy day? You’re not alone. A lot of my clients also have this same concern. According to the CDC, only about 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 6 high school students fully meet physical activity guidelines.
The good news is that the 30 minutes of physical movement doesn’t have to be done in one fell swoop. It doesn’t mean that you have to go to the gym in order to accomplish this goal, especially if you’re just starting out or re-devoting yourself to more movement. The movement can be broken up throughout the day so it doesn’t feel as overwhelming. Every little bit counts! Let’s work together to change that statistic and get us all moving more.
Here are some ideas on how to incorporate more physical activity into your daily routine:
- When you are going to work or running errands, park your car in a spot that is further away from the front door. The extra steps you have to take count towards your 30 minutes of movement for the day.
- Try different exercises while you are driving in the car. Position your hands at 9 AM and 3 PM on the steering wheel and lift/shrug your shoulder and hold for 5-10 seconds and release. Repeat 5-10 times. With your hands in those same positions, lift your elbows out to the sides and hold for 5-10 seconds and repeat. Or pull your stomach muscles in and hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat 5-10 times.
- When you are presented with the option to take the escalator/elevator, opt for the stairs to get the blood flowing and the heart pumping.
- When you are at work, don’t choose the restroom closest to your desk; pick one further down the hall or on a different floor.
- When you are on a Zoom call for work (as long as you don’t have your video on), get up and walk around. (Under-the-desk small treadmills are also a hit right now for those bad weather days and for walking meetings).
- While you are brushing your teeth, which is supposed to be for a full two minutes, do toe raises and heel rocks to pass to pass the time. Or maybe practice standing on one leg then the other to work on your balance.
- When you are making a meal and waiting for the microwave or oven to complete the cooking process, do pushups against the counter or mini squats.
- While you are cleaning up the kitchen or waiting for the washing machine to complete the spin cycle, turn on some music and dance. This is my personal favorite!
- The unfortunate truth is that we all have to clean our homes. Did you know that dusting, vacuuming, sweeping, etc. count towards your 30 minutes of movement? You get a clean house and you’ve enhanced your health while doing so!
- Scrunch up paper from your recycling bin and make fake snowballs. Have a “snowball” fight with your kids.
- Put paper plates under your feet and “skate” around on your hardwood or tile floors. Bonus points for figuring out how to clean your floors while you are doing this!
A Plug For Walking
When you think about exercise, do you take walking for granted? Walking is the perfect movement modality for physical activity. It’s free and easily accessible as long as you can find a safe space to get outdoors (bonus points for being in nature).
If you like to track physical activity by counting your steps, instead of relying on the 30-minute guideline, here are a few goals to strive for according to two new studies published in the Journal for American Medical Association:
- For every 2,000 steps that you take, it provides an extra 8 to 11% reduction in developing dementia, cancer and cardiovascular disease. You will receive this benefit up to 10,000 steps per day and then the benefits plateau at this point. Of course, going above and beyond the 10,000 steps is not discouraged.
- The faster you walk, the more benefit you receive in regards to reducing dementia, cardiovascular disease and cancer death. Speed walking is in!
Tracking your steps for a couple of days can also help you see how much movement you get on a daily basis already. The CDC reports that most Americans get 3,000-4,000 steps per day and walking less than 5,000 is considered sedentary. According to a 2022 study by the US National Institute of Health, an average of 8,200 is the sweet spot for reducing some chronic diseases, but like stated above, every little bit counts! Once you know what your baseline for daily steps is, see if you can increase it slowly over time.
Pair Movement With Nutrition For Better Health
So to recap, getting in a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity most days can lower blood pressure, reduce insulin resistance, increase your moods, improve sleep quality, help you lose or maintain your weight, supports bone health, and so much more. What are you waiting for? Start moving your way to better health today! Your body will thank you for it!
If you need support in problem-solving physical activity obstacles or figuring out how your nutrition can fit into your movement plan, make an appointment with one of our licensed and registered dietitians and nutritionists. My colleagues and I can guide you in making movement part of your health habits!
For more information on healthy habits, check out these resources:
- Read: 5 Ways To Get Back On Track
- Read: Fall Into Good Habits
- Listen: How To Change Your Mindset – Ask a Nutritionist
- Take: Nutrition 4 Weight Loss – Foundations and Ongoing Support & Education