11 Exercise and Physical Activity

Exercise and Physical Activity

Physical inactivity has an estimated cost of $67.5 billion worldwide through health-care expenditure and productivity loss (Ding et al., 2016). Increased levels of physical activity can play a significant role in decreasing this socioeconomic burden. Regular physical activity has been shown to significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety, reduce pain, and improve function (Bull et al., 2020Pedersen & Saltin, 2015). Furthermore, exercise has been shown to be effective in the primary prevention of over 30 different chronic diseases (McGee & Hargreaves, 2020; Pedersen & Saltin, 2015; Thornton et al., 2016). Additionally, a meta-analysis published in The Lancet gathered information from over one million men and women. Researchers found that 60 to 75 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day was sufficient to eliminate the increased risk of early death associated with sitting for over eight hours per day (Ekelund et al., 2016). Additionally, among adults age 40 and older, taking more steps per day is associated with lower all-cause mortality risk (Saint-Maurice et al., 2020).

Physical activity leads to changes in metabolic, cardiovascular, and immune function

Physical activity leads to changes in metabolic, cardiovascular, and immune function (Contrepois et al., 2020; Dunn & Olmedo, 2016). One of these changes is the release of myokines from skeletal muscles, which influence metabolism in virtually all organs in the body (Severinsen & Pedersen, 2020).

World Health Organization guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behavior

Exercise therapy has been shown to be safe and beneficial for physical and psychosocial health in people with multiple comorbidities (Bricca et al., 2020). The world health organization recommends adults should undertake 150-300 min of moderate-intensity, or 75-150 min of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or some equivalent combination of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, per week. These guidelines highlight the importance of regularly undertaking physical activity (both aerobic and muscle strengthening activities) emphasizing the value of any activity, of any duration, and any intensity (Bull et al., 2020). Even one or two sessions of physical activity per week may be sufficient to reduce all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality risks (O’Donovan et al., 2017).

Key Takeaways

The recommended amount of physical activity is 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. This can improve cardio-respiratory fitness, muscle strength, physical well-being, quality of life, and reduce fatigue, anxiety, and depression. The difficulty with exercise is that it is not a one size fits all, what works for one person may not work for another, so it is important to try different approaches. The key to effectiveness of exercise is adherence, so keep in mind exercise should be designed to meet the needs of real people, this can be broken down into about five 30-minute brisk walks a week.

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