Valuing life inspires physical activity levels

 By Dr. Cory Couillard

Many health officials are calling to change the way we view physical activity: not to promote it as something we ‘have to do’ or ‘should do’ but as something we do because we personally value its positive benefits to our overall physical and mental wellbeing.

The benefits of physical activity for preventing weight gain, reducing obesity and combating noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes are very well known, but few people know the powerful effects it has on our mental health. Leading an active life can help you feel valued – and value others.

Regular physical activity has been shown to keep one’s thinking, learning and judgment skills sharp. This highlights the importance of personally valuing physical activity, without it many of our required daily activities fall to the wayside.

The strongest scientific evidence suggests that physical activity alleviates symptoms associated with mild to moderate depression. Depression is major indicator of weight gain, substance abuse such as alcohol, and other factors that contribute to the ballooning rates of NCDs.

About half of depression and mental health disorders begin before the age of 14 – highlighting the importance of physical activity in children and adolescents. In addition, many older adults with poor mobility cannot do the recommended amounts of physical activity due to health conditions.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure. Physical activity includes exercise as well as other activities which involve bodily movement and are done as part of playing, working, active transportation, house chores and recreational activities.”

It can be a bit scary making changes to your life but it’s easier when you personally value the resulting outcomes – for you, your family and social circle. It’s important to think of movement as an opportunity, not an inconvenience. Be active in your own way – any form of movement is an opportunity to improve health.

Many health officials say you ‘have to do’ 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. These recommendations apply to all people, irrespective of gender, race, ethnicity or income level. Pick an activity that you personally like, value and fits into your schedule.

Inactive people should start with small amounts of physical activity and gradually increase duration, frequency and intensity over time. Walking is just one way to add physical activity to your life. When you first start, walk 10 minutes a day for the first couple of weeks. Overtime you can walk a little longer and further.

Inactive adults, older adults and those with disease limitations will have added health benefits when they become more physically active. When older adults cannot do the recommended amount of physical activity due to health conditions, it’s important for them to be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.

People of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities can benefit from being more physically active. However, special care and extra precautions are needed for pregnant and postpartum women as well as persons with cardiac events when striving to achieve the recommended levels of physical activity.

To help you get started, talk with your health care provider.

Email: drcorycouillard@gmail.com

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