Opinion | Strategies for optimizing health benefits through exercise

The Importance of Exercise: How Much and What Type?

Many readers of The Checkup With Dr. Wen were curious about how much exercise they should be doing and what type of exercise is best for their health. In a previous article, Dr. Wen mentioned a large meta-analysis that showed even just 11 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per day can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature death. This prompted questions from readers like Janelle from New York, who wanted to know if it was necessary to reach the popular goal of 10,000 steps a day.

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that women in their 70s can reduce their risk of premature death by taking as few as 4,400 steps a day. Compared to women who took 2,700 or fewer daily steps, their risk of premature death was 40% lower. The risk continued to decrease for women who walked up to 7,500 daily steps, but then the benefits leveled off. Another study published in JAMA Neurology showed that people who took about 10,000 steps a day had lower rates of dementia. The risk of dementia decreased as the number of steps increased, with the peak effect at around 9,800 steps.

Dr. Wen advises Janelle to walk as much as she can, but not to obsess over reaching the exact number of 10,000 steps. Adding other forms of aerobic exercise to her routine can also be beneficial. Walking speed is another factor to consider. A study in Britain found that walking briskly at a pace of 80 to 100 steps per minute led to better health outcomes compared to walking at a slower pace. Brisk walkers had a 35% lower risk of dying, a 25% lower chance of developing cardiovascular disease or cancer, and a 30% lower risk of progressing to dementia.

Strength training is another important component of a healthy exercise routine. Studies have shown that engaging in any form of strength training can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Even less than an hour a week of resistance training has been associated with a 40 to 70% reduction in heart disease and stroke. Strength and mobility training are especially important as we age because they help slow down bone loss and decrease the risk of injuries, including falls.

It’s worth noting that strength and resistance training don’t have to involve lifting heavy weights. There are low-impact exercises that can be done at a gym or at home using just body weight. Squats, lunges, and plank holds are examples of strength exercises that can be done without any equipment.

Lastly, it’s important to choose an exercise that you enjoy. As Ralph from California pointed out, swimming is a great total-body exercise. The key is to engage in aerobic exercise with some higher-intensity intervals combined with occasional strength training. The benefits of exercise are cumulative, and it’s never too late to start taking care of your health.

In conclusion, incorporating exercise into daily life can have a significant impact on one’s health. Whether it’s walking, swimming, or doing strength training, finding an exercise that suits your preferences and abilities is key. The specific amount and type of exercise may vary for each individual, but the benefits are undeniable. So, lace up your sneakers or jump in the pool, and start reaping the rewards of a healthy lifestyle.

Original Story at www.washingtonpost.com – 2023-12-15 00:30:00

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