Cholesterol Treatment

10 Simple Ways to Increase Your Physical Activity

10 Simple Ways to Increase Your Physical Activity
by Travis Saunders, Phd, MSc, CEP

Photo by pugetsoundphotowalks.

Regardless of your shape or size, physical activity has been shown to add years to your life, and life to your years. But believe it or not, the benefits of physical activity are not restricted to exercise performed in the gym. In fact, one of the easiest ways to improve your health may be through increasing the amount of low intensity physical activity you perform throughout the day. For example, simply increasing the number of steps that you take each day is very likely to reduce your risk for diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It’s still uncertain if this light intensity physical activity can reduce body weight, but it is clear that individuals who engage in high amounts of light intensity physical activity are healthier than those who do not. In fact, there is good evidence to suggest that simply reducing the amount of time spent sitting each day may reduce risk of death independently of other lifestyle factors.

Peter and I have discussed the importance of daily physical activity in several posts over the past few months, so today we have decided to offer some practical ways that you can incorporate physical activity into your daily life. These are tips that we have found work well for us, and we think they may work well for you as well. Try one or two, and once they’ve become part of your routine try a couple more. We would also love to hear your own tips in the comments section below.

Without further ado, here are ten simple ways to become more physically active:

1. Take the stairs as often as possible.

This one is as simple as it sounds. If you have to go up two floors or less, opt for the stairs. Ditto if you have to go down three floors or less. If you have to go up or down a distance that is too great for you to walk at the moment, walk the first few flights, then take the elevator the rest of the way. Remember, every time you take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, you are making a decision that will positively affect your long term health.

2. Drink plenty of water.

This sounds odd, but it’s a trick that I’ve been using for years. If you are constantly sipping water throughout the day, you are going to have to pee at least once an hour. Every time you have to pee, you have a guilt-free excuse to go for a 5-minute walk to the washroom and back! To crank it up a notch, use a washroom in another part of your building, which may give you an opportunity to use the stairs as well. It’s easy to forget to take a 5-minute walk-break every hour, but it’s impossible to forget to go pee.

Added bonus – staying well hydrated may also reduce feelings of hunger, and can often reduce chronic back pain. So this is really a win-win-win.

3. Park as far from the front door as possible.

Another simple but effective tactic. Whether you’re at the mall, work, or school, parking the car at the edge of the parking lot forces you to walk just a little bit further than you are used to. It will only add a few seconds to your trip, but if you do it everyday it could add years to your life.

Added bonus – less chance of getting dinged by shopping carts and teenage drivers.

4. Clean your home regularly.

I’ve got to admit, this one was Peter’s idea (as any of my former roomates can attest, cleaning is not my forte). Most people don’t realize what a good workout cleaning can be, especially if you have a large home. Cleaning involves plenty of walking, lifting, and stretching – all of which are very good for your body. Washing dishes by hand can also be an easy way to burn a few extra calories, and to spend some time chatting with other members of your family (I spent many hours drying pots and pans for my Mom growing up).

5. Gardening and yardwork.

Photo by MyAngelG.

Yardwork is great because not only does it increase your physical activity, but it also gives you an excuse to be outside. Pulling weeds, mowing the lawn, trimming the hedge, and raking leaves are all very physically taxing and like cleaning, they use a range of muscle groups.

6. Disconnect your cable for the summer.

Time spent watching TV is an independent predictor of disease, especially for kids (for a great article on the topic by Ekelund and colleagues, click here). It’s not surprising when you think about it – the only time that most kids aren’t moving around is when they’re sitting in front of the TV. Get rid of the cable, and suddenly you’ve got one less reason to spend your days sitting on the couch. If you’re like me, after a few weeks without cable, you might start to wonder why you ever had it in the first place. And if, like me, you need to watch the NHL playoffs – walk to the local pub/sports bar with your friends on game night.

7. Buy a pedometer.

Pedometers are beeper-sized gadgets that count the number of steps that you take each day. They are a terrific way to measure the amount of physical activity you are getting each day, and can also serve as a great motivator to make the decision to walk whenever possible. Aim for at least 10,000 steps each day, but any increase is likely to bring health benefits, so don’t feel bad if you can’t get up to 10,000 right away. A high quality pedometer costs just $20, and are available online from Speakwell, a Canadian company based in British Columbia.

8. Use active transportation and public transit.

Photo by frankdethier.

I have only been living in Ottawa for a week, but already I am in love with the bike paths. I have a beautiful 20 minute bike ride to work each day, and I can’t imagine a better way to start the day. It takes about 4 minutes longer than driving (but is significantly cheaper since there’s no parking fee to lock up my bike). Walking, roller blading, and biking are all great ways to get around, and they often take a lot less time than you’d expect.

If the trip is a little too far to hoof it, consider taking public transit. As researcher Ugo Lachapelle discussed in a recent interview here on Obesity Panacea, individuals who take public transit are more likely to meet physical activity recommendations than those who don’t take public transit. This is because most transit trips involve at least some walking to and from stops. And remember that most major cities have bike racks for buses in the summer, and allow bikes on trains during off-peak hours.

Many workplaces offer free or discounted transit pass programs, so be sure to check if your employer has such a program.

9. Have “walk-meetings”.

In an ideal world, we would all have 45 minutes for a relaxed lunch. If you happen to enjoy this luxury, consider taking half your lunch break to go for a walk either alone or with someone else you work with. It will help wake you up for the afternoon, as well as giving you a chance to chat with your co-workers (you could even use it to kickstart that workplace romance you’ve been planning for so long).

If you don’t have time to take a large walk break at lunch, consider having “walk-meetings”. Whenever you have to meet informally with co-workers, turn the meeting into a short walk. If it takes 5 minutes to discuss the project you are working on, that means you just got 5 extra minutes of physical activity! Peter and I used to frequently walk to the local grocery store on our lunch break, all the while discussing projects we were working on. It was a chance to get out of the lab, to talk about our work, and to get some physical activity all at the same time.

10. Go for a family walk after dinner.

Photo by _neona_.

This one was Peter’s idea, but I have to admit that we did this almost every night when I was a kid in my family as well. My sister and I would hop on our bikes, my parents would walk behind us, and the four of us would go for a half hour trip around the neighborhood. It’s another chance to spend some time together, get outside, and get some exercise all at the same time.
—————————————————

As you can see, none of the tips we’re suggesting is earth shattering. In fact, most of them are things you could start doing immediately, and cost absolutely nothing at all. Like I mentioned in the introduction, try out the tips that seem most realistic for you at this point in your life. Once you’ve mastered them, consider trying a couple others. And please share with us your tips for making physical activity a part of your day!

Disclaimer: While the activities we have suggested are all low to moderate intensity, speak to your physician if you have any health concerns before increasing your physical activity levels. The information here should be used as a general guide only, and should not be construed as specific medical advice. Also, work place romances are usually a bad idea, so be careful with that as well.

Travis

 

Original Post – http://blogs.plos.org/obesitypanacea/2010/10/18/10-simple-ways-to-increase-your-physical-activity/

Heart Health Month

February is Heart Health Month

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. The good news? It is also one of the most preventable.  Making heart-healthy choices, knowing your family health history and the risk factors for heart disease, having regular check-ups and working with your physician to manage your health are all integral aspects of saving lives from this often silent killer.  FEBRUARY IS HEART HEALTH MONTH.  Make a difference in your community by spreading the word about strategies for preventing heart disease and encouraging those around you to have their hearts check and commit to heart-healthy lives. The following article is from www.theheartfoundation.org  and includes information on common risk factors of heart disease and how to reduce your risk. Share it with your friends and family and help spread awareness this heart health month!

 

How to Reduce Your Risk

  1. Choose a Heart Healthy Lifestyle.
    • Engage in regular moderate aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes five days a week or more vigorous workouts at least 20 minutes three times a week.
    • Adopt a diet low in salt, saturated and transfats and high in unsaturated fats (fish, avocado, etc.) like the Mediterranean Diet.
    • Maintain a normal body weight with caloric adjustment.
    • Take fish oil supplements.
    • Avoid smoking and recreational drug use.
    • Imbibe no more than ½ to 1 alcoholic beverage per day.                                                                  

Know and review your risk factors with a trusted physician.

  1. Your physician may recommend medications to control cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes.
  2. High-risk individuals should consider taking a daily aspirin.
  3. Avoid hormone replacement unless you have severe menopausal symptoms.
  4. In selected cases, it may be necessary to conduct non-invasive or even invasive tests to determine the nature and severity of the heart disease.
  5. Sometimes angioplasty/stenting or even bypass surgery may be needed if you have severe and symptomatic arterial blockage.
  6. Learn CPR.
  7. And as Dr. P.K. Shah always recommends, CHOOSE YOUR PARENTS WISELY!

 

Common Risk Factors for Heart Disease

 

Age
Heart disease can occur at any age. However, four out of five people who die from coronary heart disease are aged 65 or older. The risk of stroke doubles with each decade after the age of 55.

 

Gender
Men and women are equally at risk for heart disease, but women tend to get coronary artery disease an average of 10 years later than men. The risk for women increases as they approach menopause and continues to rise as they get older. Death rates from heart disease and stroke for women are twice as high as those for all forms of cancer.

 

Family History (Heredity)
Presence of heart disease in a parent or sibling, especially at a young age, increases your risk of developing heart disease.

 

Smoking
Smokers are twice as likely to suffer heart attacks as non-smokers, and they are more likely to die as a result. Smoking is also linked to increased risk of stroke.  The nicotine and carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke damages the cardiovascular system. Passive smoking may also be a danger. 46 million Americans (25 million men and 21 million women) smoke.  Women who smoke and take the oral contraceptive pill are at particularly high risk of heart disease and stroke.

 

Cholesterol
The higher the blood cholesterol level, the higher the risk of coronary heart disease, particularly if it is combined with any of the other risk factors. Diet is one cause of high cholesterol – others are age, sex and family history. High levels (over 100 mg/dl) of LDL (low-density lipoprotein), or “bad cholesterol”, are dangerous, and low levels (under 40 mg/dl in men and under 55 mg/dl in women) of HDL (high-density lipoprotein), or “good cholesterol”, increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. High levels (over 150 mg/dl) of triglycerides (another type of fat), in some, may also increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.Nearly 40 million Americans have high cholesterol levels.

 

High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (over 140/90 mmHg and over 130/80 mmHg in diabetics) increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, and kidney damage. When combined with obesity, smoking, high cholesterol or diabetes, the risk increases several times. High blood pressure can be a problem in women who are pregnant or are taking high-dose types of oral contraceptive pill. 72 million Americans over age 20 have high blood pressure.

 

Physical Inactivity
Failure to exercise (walking or doing other moderate activities for at least 30 minutes five days a week or more vigorous workouts at least 20 minutes three times a week) can contribute to an increased risk of coronary heart disease as physical activity helps control weight, cholesterol levels, diabetes and, in some cases, can help lower blood pressure.

 

Obesity
People who are overweight are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke, even if they have none of the other risk factors. Excess weight causes extra strain on the heart; influences blood pressure, cholesterol and levels of other blood fats – including triglycerides; and increases the risk of developing diabetes. 66% of Americans over age 20 are obese.

 

Alcohol
Small amount of regular alcohol consumption (1/2 to 1 drink per day for women and 1-2 drinks per day for men) can reduce risk of heart disease. However, drinking an average of more than one drink a day for women or more than two drinks a day for men increases the risk of heart disease and stroke because of the effect on blood pressure, weight and levels of triglycerides – a type of fat carried in the blood. Binge drinking is particularly dangerous.

 

Drug Abuse
The use of certain drugs, particularly cocaine and amphetamines, has been linked to heart disease and stroke.  Cocaine can cause abnormal heartbeat which can be fatal while heroin and opiates can cause lung failure. Injecting drugs can cause an infection of the heart or blood vessels.

 

Diabetes
The condition seriously increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, even if glucose levels are under control. More than 80% of diabetes sufferers die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease.

 

Previous Medical History
People who have had a previous heart attack or stroke are more likely than others to suffer further events.

 

Stress, Depression, Anger/Hostility
Stress, depression, and negative emotions have also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.

Source: http://www.theheartfoundation.org/heart-disease-facts/reducing-your-risk