It’s no secret that Americans eat too much and exercise too little. We’re the home of motorized bicycles and scooters, extra-large value meals and an Uber standing by to drive us three city blocks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides suggestions for the amount and type of activity Americans of all ages should be aiming for, and while some news is positive, the overall picture isn’t anything to write home about. Almost 52 percent of American adults over 18 meet the CDC’s Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic physical activity, but less than 22 percent meet guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity.
The statistics don’t improve much when you look at what most Texans are doing, either. In 2015, nearly 30 percent of adults in Texas reported no leisure-time physical activity, with only 18 percent meeting the recommended aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity levels. Additionally, only 30 percent of Texas high school students report getting one hour or more of daily moderate to vigorous physical activity.
Texas Health is working to change these trends by joining up with the Blue Zones Project to encourage employees and patients to move more and improve their well-being. The Power 9 are lifestyle habits and beliefs of those who live longer, healthier lives, according to researchers, and they include the following:
• Move Naturally
• Down Shift
• 80% Rule
• Plant Slant
• Wine @ 5
• Loved Ones First
• Right Tribe
Is it any surprise the first suggestion is to move? With our largely sedentary lifestyles, the idea of moving naturally may sound strange to Americans. According to Blue Zones, however, the healthiest and longest-living people don’t seek out exercise by lifting weights, joining gyms, or training for triathlons, Spartan races or Tough Mudder events. They just move more through their daily tasks, whether that means walking to a market, working in their gardens or completing household tasks with a bit of elbow grease.
We’re not suggesting you sell your car and drag your washing machine to the curb, but start looking for ways to build more activity into your daily routine. The CDC suggests finding multiple ways to become more active, seeking out activities you actually enjoy and that complement your own physical abilities.
If you’re one of the millions of Americans who claim you’re too busy to exercise, the CDC even provides ideas to overcome the most common stumbling blocks of getting regular activity. When you consider the potential for a longer life and improved weight control, as well as a decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression and some cancers, finding the time (or getting over your other hang-ups) seems like a good idea.
If something is holding you back from getting the recommended aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity, check out the following recommendations:
• Take an honest look at your schedule and identify at least three 30-minute periods when you can schedule time for physical activity.
• Pay attention to your moods and energy levels. Are you more likely to be active in the morning, afternoon or evening? Plan accordingly.
• Make movement part of your everyday habits:
– Walk or ride your bike instead of driving whenever you can.
– Take the dog for a walk more often.
– Exercise while you watch TV.
– Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
– Park farther away from the front door when you’re running errands.
– Instead of texting or emailing a colleague, walk to their office for a chat.
– Mow your own yard and do your own gardening instead of paying someone else to do it.
– Plan social activities involving exercise, such as inviting friends to go hiking, swimming or dancing.
– Dust off your school-days gym skills, such as hula hooping or jumping rope.
– Get the whole family involved by going for walks, riding bikes, playing tag, hitting the playground, etc.
– Plan ahead when you travel and stay at hotels where you can walk to the conference or meeting, swim between sessions and jog in the evening.
If you sit down and really figure out why you’re not getting enough physical activity, it’s easier to come up with a plan to overcome whatever is holding you back. Talk to your spouse, friends or physician, and find a group of people to support you and keep you accountable. And whatever you do and however you decide to do it, just get up and move!