By Ruth Frechman, MA, RDN, CDT
The 30s are the gateway to middle age. If your physical activity habits are not yet established, now is a good time to start. Fitness, along with proper nutrition, is important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Being fit increases energy, burns calories and may prevent or minimize complications from chronic diseases.
Why Be Fit?
There are many health benefits associated with fitness. To name a few:
- Decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes
- Decreased risk of hypertension (or high blood pressure) and/or high cholesterol
- Improved mental health
- Weight loss
- Better quality sleep
- Stress relief
- Increased bone density
- Decreased risk of early death
Motivation Is Key
You may need some encouragement when it comes to getting fit. What is going to motivate you to move? Come up with a few reasons why being active will help create a healthier you, such as:
- Being a positive role model for kids
- Decreasing the risk of developing high blood pressure or Type 2 diabetes
- Losing weight
How Much Is Enough?
After reviewing years of research, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services developed the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Adults 18 to 64 years old should follow these recommendations:
- Do at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity or 1.25 hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity a week.
- Include strength training using all of the major muscle groups 2 days a week or more.
- For more health benefits, increase moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 5 hours or include 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity a week.
Healthy pregnant women should get at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity spread throughout the week. Women who are used to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity can continue doing 1.25 hours a week after talking to their doctor.
Does Walking Count?
Walking slowly is considered a light-intensity activity. Brisk walking is an example of a moderate-intensity activity and includes walking and talking but not being able to sing. With vigorous-intensity exercise, you can only say a few words without catching your breath. It is sufficient to do bouts of 10 minutes at a time throughout the week, regardless of the intensity, but the goal is to continue following these guidelines, even when 65 years and older, as able!
No More Excuses
Maybe you have heard that being fit is important, but perhaps you have been busy starting a career or raising a family. If physical activity hasn’t been a priority, start now by setting reasonable goals. Begin with activities you enjoy and slowly build up your endurance. To keep on track, record any physical activity you do in a journal.
Life is full of excuses, but physical activity should be an essential part of your life. Being fit will help you stay young on the inside and out, and it can help you breeze through the next few decades by feeling strong and healthy.
Reviewed October 2013
Ruth Frechman, MA, RDN, CPT, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and ACE certified personal trainer. She is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and author of The Food Is My Friend Diet.