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Your body was made to move: Work out and live longer

By MYLENE MENDOZA-DAYRIT, The Philippine STAR Published Aug 30, 2022 5:00 am Updated Aug 28, 2022 12:33 pm

A study was just published by the scientific journal of the American Heart Association on how long-term leisure time physical activity intensity is connected to the prevention of premature mortality in adults. The authors of the study were Dong Hoon Lee, ScD; Leandro F.M. Rezende, ScD; Dr. Hee-Kyung Joh; NaNa Keum, ScD; Gerson Ferrari, PhD; Juan Pablo Rey-Lopez, PhD; Eric B. Rimm, ScD; Fred K. Tabung, PhD; and Dr. Edward L. Giovannucci, ScD.

The World Health Organization (WHO), in its 2018 Global Action Plan on Physical Activity collaterals, indicated a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity (MPA), 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (VPA), or an equivalent combination of both per week. Since its connection to health is clear, the effect of higher levels of long-term VPA and MPA on lowering mortality became the focus of the study, which involved 116,221 adults over a span of 30 years (1988 to 2018).

Biking to work became a thing for many during the pandemic. This should be encouraged in cities so that commuting to work is already one’s daily exercise. 

A total of 47,596 deaths were registered out of the population being studied. Eighty percent of them had no VPA at all. On the other hand, those that met the 150 to 299 minutes of MPA per week showed 19% to 25% lower risk of all-cause mortality. It was further observed that the maximum association with lower mortality was achieved by performing 150 to 300 minutes per week of VPA, 300 to 600 minutes per week of MPA, or an equivalent combination of both.

It’s also wise to do it in the morning so you can tick it off your to-do list, and not forget once you are swamped with 101 things to do.

Note that this is not occasionally, nor when you have time, or you feel like it. This is a life-long commitment. Moderate physical activities (MPA) include walking, performing lower-intensity exercise, weightlifting, and doing calisthenics. Vigorous physical activity (VPA) includes jogging, running, swimming, bicycling, playing squash/racquetball or tennis, working outdoors, and climbing stairs.

Experts would normally recommend that you exercise as soon as you wake up. This is due to many reasons. One, for most people, this is the time when they have the most energy. Many people use the lack of energy or the feeling of being fully spent for not exercising. Doing it as your first activity after a full night’s rest will cancel out such reasoning.

Playing tennis alone with a single opponent on the other side of the net is classified as a vigorous physical activity, while playing doubles is classified as a moderate activity.

It’s also wise to do it in the morning so you can tick it off your to-do list, and not forget once you are swamped with 101 things to do. In our tropical climate, doing the workout in the morning makes it more pleasant, especially if you are working out outdoors or without air-conditioning.

Another tip is do not rush from no-exercise-at-all to vigorous physical activity all at once. You have to ease yourself into it. If you are just starting to be active, then maybe you want to start off with just 10 to 15 minutes of moderate activity everyday for a week. You can gradually increase the time and intensity as you remain committed to doing it regularly.

Make sure you graduate from the cardio. Widen your horizon and start lifting weights, too.

The most common mistake of many is to overdo their first week with “killer” workouts. Their bodies react negatively with inflammation, pain, and maybe even injury. The experience is negative, the outcome is negative, and obviously they will stop doing the activity. That is not the way to build healthy habits.

Make sure you graduate from the cardio. Many people are glued to the treadmill, the bike, the rower, or the elliptical machines. Nothing bad about that, but widen your horizon and start lifting weights, too. The recommendation of the National Institute of Health and even WHO is for people to strength train twice per week. This type of activity helps increase muscle mass, maintains bone strength, and promotes balance.

The simple rule to distinguish whether your activity is moderate or vigorous is to ask yourself this question: Can I talk while I do it? If you can talk while doing it, but not sing while doing it, then it is an MPA. Other activities under MPA are ballroom and line dancing, biking on level ground, general gardening, water aerobics, and canoeing. 

If you can only say a few words without stopping to catch your breath while doing an activity then it’s vigorous. Other VPAs are hiking uphill, jumping rope, martial arts, race walking, sports with a lot of running, fast dancing, heavy gardening and biking faster or uphill.