Being physically active is an important way to improve your chances of living longer. Physical activity reduces risk of heart disease by helping to lower blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, and cholesterol. In addition physical activity improves muscle strength, bone strength and balance and therefore decreases chances of falling. Also, physical activity improves mental health and mood.
The CDC advises at least 150 minutes or 2½ hours a week of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. An example of moderate activity would be a brisk walk. Moderate activity generally would cause enough trouble breathing that it would be hard to carry on a normal conversation. In addition two days of weight training a week that works all major muscle groups is advised. More intense exercise more often provides even more benefit.
We can all easily come up with a hundred excuses of why we are not more active. Sometimes events like the CHN 5K run/walk may be just the thing that stimulates us to become active. What better way is there to be active and help raise money to help those locally affected by cancer at the same time? So how does someone safely start to get ready for an event like a 5K? Five kilometers is 3.1 miles. Most people can walk at a pace of about three miles per hour. So a 5K could be walked in about an hour. An active person generally takes 10,000 steps a day. If someone has an average stride of about 2½ feet, the 5K would be 7-8000 steps.
To get ready for an event like a 5K you may need to buy some good jogging shoes and comfortable clothing. Also, consider wearing two pairs of socks when breaking shoes in to avoid blisters. Fortunately, walking or jogging is a relatively inexpensive activity to start. Try to find a partner or a group to train with. Supporting one another in an exercise activity improves success.
In addition, recognize that the heart is a muscle that requires conditioning. An unconditioned heart tends to speed up rapidly during exercise and continue to beat rapidly after exercise is done. The heart, like other muscles, can be conditioned to work more efficiently through regular activity.
So, as someone begins an exercise program to train for an event, they need to build up stamina gradually. A person does not have to train to win the race to gain benefit. Setting a goal of finishing and gradually improving the time it takes to do the event is a good strategy. A good plan would be to try short distances at first. Try jogging for a few minutes and then walk a few minutes. Gradually increase the distance and the time jogging and decrease the time walking. It is OK to walk the 5K if running is too difficult. Stretching before the activity also helps to get the muscles prepared. It is advisable to give the muscles a break by resting a day after training or better yet, doing a different activity the next day that uses different muscle groups.
The saying “no pain, no gain” does not really apply to people starting an exercise program. A sore muscle or joint may get worse with overuse. If you have chest pain, shortness of breath or pain in a joint that prevents being able to be active, it would be a good idea to be cleared by your health provider before continuing.
If you are regularly active, events like the 5K are a good chance to get out and maintain the active life style. Check out the details or register at www.chn5K.org. If you want to be active this is a good chance to start an exercise program and stay healthy my friends.
By: P. Michael Shattuck, M.D. – Community Health Network Family Physician