I know, I know. Exercise is great for us. Everyone knows that. But how many of us actually do it?
It's no secret that the majority of people in developed countries are not meeting the minimum recommended weekly physical activity levels. In fact, only 1/3 of adults and 1/5 of adolescents meet these guidelines!
And here's the kicker: if you don't do any exercise at all, you're more likely to be obese than someone who exercises moderately or vigorously.
You can listen to the audio below or see the transcribed text for more details.
Hi, it is Dr Derkson, I am here with the third video in the series of COVID-19 and our health.
Do keep in mind that the following video is my own personal opinion and does not constitute medical advice. Please make sure to follow up with your own healthcare practitioner before making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle to ensure that these changes are right for you.
Now don’t forget the purpose of this video series – to focus on the parts of our lifestyle that are within our control, the ones that most strongly impact our own health and the health of our children. And as I mentioned before – the ones that will likely help us reduce our chances of a more severe case of COVID-19.
Today’s subject is exercise and movement, which is quite a contrast from the last video that emphasized the importance of sleep or in other words the “absence of any physical activity”. Despite these differences, both sleep and exercise fall into the category of lifestyle choices that we can directly control and that will have positive outcomes on our health and wellness, when applied correctly.
Ok – I think everyone will agree that doing some form of exercise will make us, in a very broad sense – healthier. This is great – having knowledge about the positive impact of exercise should convince everyone to exercise, in some capacity
…. But did you know that the majority of people in developed countries (adults and adolescents) are NOT meeting the minimum recommended weekly physical activity levels?
Let me provide some numbers I got from the Statistics Canada website (https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-625-x/2011001/article/11552-eng.htm)
- Just over 15% of Canadian adults meet the current physical activity guidelines OR said another way … only 1 in 6 Canadian adults are active enough according to guidelines
Canadian adults spend an average of 9.5 hours a day in sedentary tasks, or said another way - almost 70% of their waking hours are inactive
- And sadly, we know that being sedentary leads to an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, mental health problems and possibly a shorter life.
For Canadian children – the numbers are a bit better compared to adults, but they are not very inspiring –
- Less than 40% of 5- to 17- year-olds are reaching their recommended physical activity levels
- More than 1/2 of 5- to 17-year-olds and more than 3/4 of 3- to 4-year-olds are engaging in more screen time than is recommended
So, what the data is saying – we parents are not exercising enough. Our children are not exercising enough. And instead of exercising, we are all spending too much time in front of a screen or in a stationary position.
And sadly, I believe these numbers have likely worsened for most people and their families due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions in place.
I find these stats disappointing, since we all have the knowledge regarding exercise and its positive impact, yet we are choosing not to exercise. Yes, I say choose because I think we all can spare some minutes in the day to devote to physical activity. And if we are not choosing it, then it means we are not prioritizing it. At the end of the day, we will only do something that we make a priority above our other tasks, chores and responsibilities. I understand that life can get in the way, whether it is work pressures, time constraints, lack of energy or lack of motivation. I recognize that the struggle is real. There are days I do not exercise for one of these reasons, but I make sure to prioritize it on a daily basis and if I miss one day, then I remind myself that tomorrow is always another opportunity. It is important to stay positive and not to get too disappointed if we miss a day of physical activity.
Now if we can start to prioritize exercise and physical activity… the next logical questions would be - what type of exercise should we do? How much exercise should we do? Well that depends on goals and personal health, but I like to keep these recommendations as general as possible and for anyone and everyone watching this video.
Yes, it can get complicated and it can be overwhelming at times, but as I often say… lets keep it simple and enjoyable… Which is often the driving force to maintaining a positive habit change.
So what is enough activity? ….
Let us look at some recommendations regarding the amount and type of activity that is needed to promote and maintain good health.
- The World Health Organization recommends that adults aged 18–64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week – which is often divided into 5 days of 30 minutes.
- As for children and adolescents, the CDC advises to do 60 minutes (1 hour) or more of “moderate-to-vigorous intensity” physical activity each day.
Ok, the type of activity was a bit vague – but we have an idea on the amount of time we should be spending on exercise… at least 30 minutes a day… which is very do-able and flexible.
What do I mean by that? Well, you can either do 30 minutes straight of activity OR break it down into smaller chunks of time – 3 x 10 minutes or 6 x 5 minutes – over the course of the day.
For the purpose of creating a new habit, it is important to make it simple and easy to repeat… now it does not help that in our current COVID pandemic – the majority of exercise and physical activity establishments have been shut down or are at very low capacity. But let me remind you, we can still manage this aspect of our lifestyle…
This is where I come in – to educate and remind you of the value of exercise and also provide recommendations to incorporate in everyday life. I know that everyone understands and agrees with the positive aspects of exercise. It is sometimes a matter of execution – either scheduling it in or knowing what to do, and then once we start exercising it becomes a maintenance process.
Now back to the type of exercise we need to do… “moderate intensity… vigorous intensity” was mentioned in the guidelines. There are a lot of terms in this domain - low intensity and high intensity. Low impact and high impact. Aerobic and anaerobic. Strength training and Cardio training.
For the purpose of this video, I want to stick more with the introduction of any type of exercise instead of the specific type of exercise. So that means, we should focus on an exercise or activity that will be enjoyable and will be easily repeated.
Before I go over some recommendations and tips, let us briefly review what exercise is doing for our health? What is the purpose of flailing our arms and legs about, contorting our bodies in various positions or running/biking around the neighbourhood as if we are trying to get away from someone?
- improves our cardiorespiratory fitness. Our heart and our lungs get stronger and healthier.
- It strengthens our muscles and maintains our skeletal structure in place. And helps us avoid injuries.
- It improves our mental health and allows us to be more productive when we are working.
- It can improve our sleep (and we know how important our sleep is... right!).
- And lastly, it can increase our lifespan, along with our healthspan! Which is one of my motivating factors for exercising on a regular basis.
Ok, now for some tips and tricks on how to incorporate more exercise in your daily routine….
- Make a schedule - having it in your daily agenda allows you to have a designated time – free from other commitments any distractions
- Keep it short (especially if time is an issue and especially if you do not enjoy workouts). Start with only 5 minutes at a time – remember we are trying to create a new habit – not train for an ironman competition… at least not yet
- Keep the exercise simple and enjoyable… especially to start. As I tell most of my patients, you don’t run a marathon before you train for it. You have to start somewhere… so maybe start with just 5 pushups or lunges and slowly build from there.
- Keep it fresh… don’t let your physical activity stop because the exercise got stale. Switch it up and stay fresh.
If you are more of an advanced exercise performer… such as a regular runner/biker /swimmer or exercise class attendee, some of these tips may be too basic for you… well good for you and keep it up! Some recommendations I do have for you include:
- Trying a different activity or sport –and given it is a COVID world – these activities can be done online from home or at the office. Have you ever done a yoga class? Pilates? High intensity interval training? A push up challenge? Maybe you want to take some lessons in martial arts?
- Also – challenge yourself – set a new personal record or an all time best – or compete with friends or family. But be careful and don’t hurt yourself.
What about the children?? Well first off, it is important to consider they have probably been fairly active at school, so you don’t have to make them do their Navy Seals MURPH routine (look it up – if you are not familiar with it)…but try and encourage outdoor play. This is especially important in the virtual learning world where school is at home. If you cannot get outside, then consider indoor active play. Keep in mind our children may want us the parents to join in…. so be prepared to get active!
There are lots of online kids and adult exercise routines – that are simple and enjoyable. One that we have regularly been doing at home during the pandemic is made by Joe Wicks – also known as the Body Coach – he is a British fitness coach who posts his workouts on youtube. If you want something more simple – than you can do a search on google or youtube for easy or beginner exercise workouts.
I do want to emphasize that we should not get overwhelmed with the type of exercise to start. Just do something active – that way you are less sedentary – and on your way to calling yourself a physically active person.
If you or your children are having trouble exercising, whether it is a muscle/joint or ligament problem or you are having chest pain or trouble breathing – than please stop the activity and consult your doctor to further assess the issue.
Ok that is it for now. And don’t forget ... It will not be easy, and it will not be perfect, but it needs to be emphasized and encouraged … Make exercise a priority!
Stay strong, healthy and positive.
See you next time.