Physical activity, mix it up

Moderate and vigorous physical activity are recommended for better health. Mixing these physical activities in weekly is important.

A bottom view of someone's legs running outside on a sidewalk.
Photo: Free Images/Cienpies Design.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), physical activity is “ any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure.” There are many forms of physical activity, including walking, lifting weights, tai chi, dancing and yoga. All of these forms of movement, and many others, strengthen different parts of our body and incorporating a mixture of activity into your daily routine, can help to keep your body safe by decreasing the chances for falling, breaking a bone and heart problems. And physical activity makes us feel better. To enjoy the health benefits of physical activity, the intensity should be moderate or vigorous.

There are four types of physical activity that are especially beneficial for better health: endurance, strength, balance and flexibility.

Endurance or aerobic physical activities make you breathe faster and your heart beat more rapidly improving the health of your heart and lungs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, moderate physical activity is measured as with increased breathing and heart rate but still able to carry on a conversation. Vigorous physical activity is measured with increased heart rate and breathing and unable to carry on a conversation.

Activities can be considered vigorous, moderate or light depending on how hard you breathe and how fast your heart beats. Light intensity activities include walking at a casual pace, shopping and light household chores. Although you are still moving, light intensity movement should not be counted towards meeting daily recommendations for physical activity. Only moderate and vigorous intensity activities count toward meeting physical activity needs. Vigorous activities give similar health benefits in half the time of moderate activity. You can choose moderate or vigorous activity or mix them both each week. Activities can include swimming, brisk walking, running, biking and dancing.

Concentrate on moderate to vigorous activities as they will count towards your weekly physical activity recommendations.

Strength or muscle-building activities make your muscles stronger and help with your balance to decrease falls and help to make daily activities easier to complete. Activities in this category include lifting weights, resistance bands, and carrying groceries. Working all the different parts of the body is important for balanced strength.

Balance activities help to reduce risk of injuries by enhancing stability and flexibility, which helps to prevent falls. Activities in this category include tai chi, balancing on one foot and martial arts.

Flexibility activities help the body to move easier. Flexibility activities include stretching and yoga, which help you do things like reach and tie your shoes, look both ways to cross the street and look over your shoulder to back your car out of the driveway.

Incorporating each of these forms of physical activity into a weekly routine helps to increase health, strength and stamina for overall better living. Each activity is important as there are different benefits for each. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans encourages at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week. For more information on physical activity, visit Stanford Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  and MSU Extension's Physical Activity website.

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