Physical activity all year round is very important for individuals of all ages. I am not saying you have to be signed up for a sports team, work out class or a gym. I am saying you need to move naturally throughout the day.

Many people, both youth and adults, don’t get nearly enough physical activity everyday in order to keep themselves healthy.

To maintain health, youth should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity every day. Cardio activity is activity that causes your heart to beat faster, makes you breathe harder and is rhythmic. Examples of cardio activities include walking, swimming or riding a bike.

For adults, the guidelines read that you need to have 30 minutes of at least moderate activity on most days, which should equal about 150 to 300 minutes a week or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity each week.

What do I mean by moderate? Well, how it looks is very different for every individual because it’s about how hard your body has to work to complete a task. Do you have a hard time breathing when gardening or does your breathing not change? How about when you walk? If it’s brisk then your heart rate goes up and you breathe harder then you are doing moderate activity.

On top of needing aerobic activity, we also need muscle strengthening activity and bone building activity at least two times a week for both types. These can be incorporated into the aerobic activity you do by jumping jacks or running to build bone strength through these weight-bearing activities.

For muscle strengthen activities, try using weights in the pockets of your jacket or pants when walking. You can put canned foods, coin rolls or any other item you have that weighs several pounds but is small enough for your pocket. This increases the strength building component of your workout.

Also, weights can be found to wrap around ankles and wrists for ease of use as well. Also, your own body can be used for weight resistance in activities like push ups or squats. Make sure to work all the major muscle groups when doing muscle strengthening workouts.

With increased physical activity there is many benefits. Brain health is supported for all age groups with possible improvements in cognitive function, decreased depression and better sleep. For older adults, increased physical activity reduces the risk of fall related injures.

With one single bout of physical activity at the moderate level individuals experience benefits by decreasing blood pressure and a reduction in anxiety. Despite these benefits, only about 18% of American women and 23% of American men over 18-years-old get the minimum amount of physical activity recommended.

To have a positive experience, start with small increases in physical activity. Try taking a brisk 10 minute walk on your break or take the stairs up and down several times. No one changes behavior overnight, so set small goals that you can build on and try to set up prompts to remind yourself of your goals.

Small changes over time will add up to better health. Make sure to fuel your body with healthy foods at the same time to reach your health goals. Check out foodhero.org for great tasting, healthy recipes.

Mandy Hatfield is the Nutrition Education Program Senior Instructor for OSU Extension Service of Douglas County. Mandy can be reached by e-mail mandy.hatfield@oregonstate.edu or phone at 541-236-3017.

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