Our body is a system designed for movement. It houses our organs and our brain, it is the vehicle of what and who we are. Here in Maine, we can put our cars in garages in the winter, we wash them to keep them to keep the salt off the body and engine and we service them regularly to make sure they are in good condition. How often do we extend this care to ourselves? Movement helps to decrease pain, improve mobility restrictions, and numerous other benefits for the heart, mind, and body.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has specific recommendations for the ‘otherwise healthy’ adult (1). These consist of recommendations for flexibility, cardiovascular activity, and resistance training. The ACSM recommends about 2 ½ hours of moderate activity a week, or a little over an hour of vigorous activity a week, This can be broken up throughout the day and week, but should be at least 10 minutes at a time for proven results.
What exactly is moderate activity or vigorous activity for that matter? The ACSM measures this in metabolic units or MET. It is a measure in comparison to the amount of oxygen you will consume at rest for 1 hour. Moderate activity is described as ‘active but not strenuous’ and is rated at 3-6 MET/hr. Vigorous activity is strenuous activity with intense effort, it is rated at anything over 6 MET/Hr. The goal is 10 METs per week. This is an imperfect measure (2) but there are a few examples:
Household Walking-2.0 MET/Hr
General House Cleaning-3.0 MET/Hr
Walking the dog- 3.0 MET/Hr
Stair Climbing, Slow Pace- 4.0 MET/Hr
Bicycling, 10-12 mph- 6.8 MET/Hr
Stair Climbing, Fast Pace- 8.8 MET/Hr
Running, 10 minute mile- 9.8 MET/Hr
There is an excellent and ever-growing list of activities and their MET equivalents put forth by Arizona State University and the National Cancer Institute published here. The list covers a vast array of activities from household, to occupational, to sporting activities. It is well worth a look.
Resistance training and flexibility are also important components of the ACSM recommendations. Proven benefits include increased strength, power, bone density, and increased insulin sensitivity. Each major muscle group should be included, performing 2-4 sets with a rest period of 2-3 minutes between sets. The emphasis should be on a controlled rate and excellent form. This should start at a light intensity for beginners and can progress to moderate and heavy as you have more experience with training. Using these general guidelines of exercising 2-3x/week (2-3 days of rest between sessions) is proven to result in strength gains.
Flexibility should be trained along with resistance training about 2-3x/week. Each stretch held about 10-30 seconds at a point of tightness or slight discomfort. Continuing this for 3-4 weeks will yield improved ROM and mobility.
Regular physical activity and exercise are associated with delayed all-cause mortality, decreased risk of developing coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, type 2 diabetes and Cancer. It also reduces blood pressure, cholesterol, decreases inflammation, enhances insulin sensitivity, and increases bone mass. The effects are many and far-reaching. There are also proven benefits for mild to moderate depressive and anxiety disorders.
These are general guidelines to start on a path for improved health and well-being. Different programs are available to athletes of all types. Be sure to consult your physician before engaging in any exercise program as disease and injury may modify what activities are safe for you.
Right now is always to best time to start the path to a healthier you and here at Alliance Physical Therapy we encourage you to achieve your best!
Joshua Gelfand, DPT Cert DN, Cert VRS
1. Garber CE et al. ACSM Position Stand: Quantity and quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise. Medicine& Science in Sports & Exercise. 2011: 1334-1359
2. Byrne, NM et al. Metabolic equivalent: one size does not fit all. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2005. (99): 1112-1119