Sunday, November 30, 2014

Exercise: Something is better than nothing

This week, we are proud to feature our first guest writer, and resident expert on preventive health, Kelly Jordan Kuhlman, RN. Kelly recently became a Registered Nurse in the state of California and has 2 bachelor’s degrees: Human Development and Nursing. Given that the holidays are a time when we tend to put our health aside for festivities, Kelly wanted to share with you a little known fact about expectations for exercise and how they get in our way.

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Physical activity provides a number of health benefits that positively affect a wide range of factors, which contribute to quality of life. Regular exercise reduces the risk for heart disease, type II diabetes, obesity, weakened immune system and even some forms of cancer. Several organizations recommend that adults receive at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week. Unfortunately, most people have a misunderstanding of the recommendation for moderate exercise, therefore possibly deterring people from getting up and exercising.

Each year people are diagnosed with or die from preventable diseases. In addition to routine doctors visits, check ups and maintaining current vaccinations, there are several lifestyle modifications individuals can implement in order to reduce their risk for health complications such as maintaining a balanced diet, smoking cessation and incorporating a regular exercise routine. Obviously this is easier said than done, because if it were easy more people would be successful in their health maintenance and prevention. In an effort to better understand barriers to successful prevention, specifically exercise, this study came to my attention.

This past year, Neal W. Prokop of the University of Manitoba and colleagues published a study about people’s perception of exercise intensity. The objective of this study was to determine if individuals who categorize themselves as active could identify moderate exercise intensity.

To answer this question, they recruited 51 adults that are regularly active. Each individual was asked to run or walk on a treadmill at a level they determined was of moderate intensity. The participants were able to adjust the incline and speed of the treadmill until the desired pace was found in which they could maintain for five minutes in order to collect accurate heart rate readings.

They found that 80% of the participants were exercising at a vigorous intensity instead of the intended moderate intensity.
What this study suggests is that people think they have to work out harder than is really recommended, or necessary. This is good news for people who are active because there are greater health benefits to working out at a vigorous intensity. More importantly, for those individuals who avoid exercise because they feel they are too “out of shape” to even start, these findings are encouraging because the recommended “moderate intensity” may be easier than most perceive.
Now that we know people do not know how to identify moderate exercise, we have highlighted an area where the community needs education in order to be successful in health promotion and prevention.

So what is “moderate intensity” exercise? The most accurate way to gage if you are hitting the correct intensity is to utilize a heart monitor. Due to advancements in technology, most cellphones have an application that can be downloaded and utilized as a heart monitor for free. Moderate activity would be achieved when you are exercising at a rate that is around 50-70% of your maximum heart rate.

What I hope you take from this study is that a high percentage of people are overestimating the exertion required to achieve health benefits, which is likely deterring inactive people from getting and staying active. So if you happen to be one of those individuals that feels like working out is too challenging, be reassured that moderate activity is not as difficult as you may have thought, and given the mounting evidence that sitting has a number of long-term negative health consequences, anything is better than nothing. For example, walking is an efficient, inexpensive, and easy way to raise your heart rate toward the moderate intensity zone.

In hopes that this study will inspire you to maintain your health by incorporating an exercise routine into your daily life, I will leave you with a quote from one of the greatest coaches in documented human history.

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack in will.” – Vince Lombardi

If this topic is interesting to you, check out our past posts on unconventional ways to supplement your life with physical activity using puppies, technology, and yoga.

Prokop, N. W., Hrubeniuk, T. JR., Senechal, M., & Bouchard, D. R. (2014). People who perceive themselves as active cannot identify the intensity recommended by the international physical activity guidelines. Journal of Sports Medicine (5), 235-241.

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