Movement & Exercise

Movement & Exercise

One reason most Americans do not get enough exercise is that they feel they do not have enough time. It is hard to work in 150 minutes of exercise a week, half of which needs to be somewhat vigorous according to federal guidelines. However, just 15 minutes of modest exercise daily and 50 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly can significantly improve your overall health and increase your longevity. So what would constitute 10-15 minutes of modest exercise or activity? Walking, hiking, biking and power yoga are all considered modest exercise. Vigorous exercise means you are working up a sweat.

A recent analysis of 14 studies among 230,000 people in Denmark, US, China and the UK, compared the findings of people who ran and found that people who ran any amount were 30% and 23% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and cancer, respectively, than people who did not run. Now, not everyone can run or should run. The point is that short bursts of vigorous activity such as running or biking of at least 50 minutes a week lowers your risk for heart disease and cancer and can improve your longevity.


Can you break up our exercise into “bite size” chunks? Yes! The good news is that you do not need to set aside a full hour three times a week to exercise. You can aim to fit in short moderate and vigorous activities into your morning routine or say your mid-day lunch time. You can also take a nightly post dinner walk and not only enjoy the benefits of modest exercise but you will also enjoy the benefits of improved digestion and a lower post-meal blood sugar rise.


As for vigorous exercise, this type of exertion is important because it stimulates your body to build muscle and stamina. It also strengthens your bones, burns fat and improves your circulation. One important thing that vigorous exercise does is it promotes the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide rids your body of free radicals (lowers cancer risk) and promotes a healthy endothelium (lowers risk for heart disease). What is the endothelium? The endothelium is the cellular lining inside your arteries which when unhealthy, builds up with plaque and inflammation. It also robs you of your vitality and youthfulness. A healthy endothelium lowers your risk for high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease and an added benefit is that it improves your sex life. This has to do with improved circulation of your vital organs.  If you already have a history of heart disease, shortness of breath, dizziness or high blood pressure you should see your primary care provider to make sure moderate or vigorous exercise is safe for you. For most people, regular exercise will improve their current and future state of health and overall well-being and mobility.


Another interesting concept is Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis otherwise known as NEAT. NEAT refers to the energy expenditure of all physical activities other than exercise and includes all the activities that render us vibrant, unique, and independent human-beings such as working, playing, and dancing. Evidence suggests that NEAT can increase your average calorie expenditure by an additional 350 kcal per day. To reverse obesity and chronic disease, we need to develop individual strategies to promote standing, walking and moving by about 2.5 hours per day. This would require that we re-engineer our work, school, and home environments to more activity friendly spaces. If “sitting is the new smoking” as they say, increasing your NEAT at work, home and play would negate this health risk. As NEAT researcher James Levine puts it, "We may come to appreciate that spontaneous physical activity is not spontaneous at all but carefully programmed."

For additional information about NEAT check out these links: