Stay at Home; Time to Exercise! by Mark Deaton, Ph.D., CSCS*D, EIM
MOUNT OLIVE – University of Mount Olive Associate Professor of Exercise Science Dr. Mark Deaton shares tips and suggestions for staying fit and healthy during COVID-19 and beyond.
The sun is shining, the weather is getting warmer; summertime has arrived! It is that time of the year that most of us love to spend outdoors enjoying nature. The opportunity is also here for us to become more actively engaged in activities we enjoy. Some enjoy landscaping, some gardening and others attending and participating in summer sporting events. However, we are all facing a new era of Social Distancing and the challenge of canceled events and fear of being too close to someone else in public.
Let us accept this new situation as a challenge that we can overcome and become better because of it. We need to take the time to exercise and finally do the things that are necessary to improve our health. Your physician has probably been telling you this for years, yet we could not find the time (primary excuse) to follow through. Now you may find yourself with more time than before to actively engage in physical activity. In this article we will discuss exercise recommendations, look at a few examples and ensure you are getting the health benefits your body needs.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition and in conjunction with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans: “For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least
- 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or
- 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or
- An equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week
- Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.” (2019).
It is recognized that some activity is better than no activity. Therefore, if you are unable to participate in 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week you can take part in lesser amounts and still receive health benefits. There are five components of health-related fitness: cardiovascular, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition. If you participate in adequate amounts of the first four then body composition will usually take care of itself (given proper caloric intake). Now, let us discuss a few ways that you can engage in physical activity and know that it is indeed benefiting your health.
Cardiovascular is listed first for a reason. It is the one dimension of health-related fitness that provides us with substantial health benefits. Just about every cell in your body will be improved with regular cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise. You can choose any aerobic activity. Going for a brisk walk outside is a great choice that does not cost any money, allows you to get vitamin D from sunlight, and improves your health. Other aerobic options include biking, canoeing, hiking, etc.… It is up to you to choose an activity that you will enjoy doing. If you enjoy it, you will stick with it! If it happens to be a rainy-day, workout in your garage. Beachbody offers a plethora of aerobic and strength training programs that you can follow on your television/computer for less than $100 per year. That is a lot cheaper than a monthly gym membership that challenges the whole idea of social distancing.
Muscular strength and endurance are recognized as vital component to an individual’s exercise program. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s position statement on resistance training for older adults: There is strong evidence that participation in regular strengthening exercises can counter age-related issues such as mobility loss, chronic disease, sarcopenia (muscle mass loss with age) and premature mortality. That is reason enough to decide to participate! This type of activity does not have to require a gym membership nor expensive equipment. Body weight squats are an excellent example of an activity for the lower body that you can do anywhere! Another activity is pushing around a loaded wheel barrel. This requires your body to engage in muscular force production as well as balancing aided by synergistic muscles. If you have resistance bands, you can work all major muscle groups of your body through various routines. A full set of bands that vary in resistance can cost between $25-$75. The idea is to find five to ten different resistance exercises and develop a routine 2-3 days per week. You will be glad you did!
Flexibility is improved by engaging in activities that increase your range of motion. This is another activity that can be done outside without any specific equipment. The idea is to choose a stretch for all major muscles of the body (specifically around the joints that you use most often). Then stretch to the point of mild discomfort and hold it for 15-30 seconds. Do this 2-3 times for each joint. Stretching can be a part of your daily routine or every other day. An example would include pulling your arm across your chest, and/or sitting on the ground with your legs straight in front of you and leaning over to touch your toes.
How do you know if the activity you are doing is providing your body with any health benefits? The best way to monitor the impact of your physical activity is to assess your heart rate while exercising. The first step is to calculate your maximum heart rate. To do this you need to subtract your age from 220.
Example: Joe is 50 years old
220 – 50 = 170 beats per minute (bpm)
170 is Joe’s estimated maximum heart rate.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “for moderate intensity physical activity your target heart rate should be between 64% and 76% of your maximum heart rate”. So, using our example from above:
64% intensity: 170 x 0.64 = 109 bpm
76% intensity: 170 x 0.76 = 129 bpm
For Joe to receive the moderate-intensity level benefits, he must workout at a heart rate between 109 and 129 bpm. The key is to start counting your workout session time when your heart rate enters the appropriate zone (between 109-129 for Joe). If you desire 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, then this is 30 minutes of time that your heart rate was in that zone. Do not count the time spent warming up or cooling down. The benefit comes from being within your heart rate zone for either moderate or higher intensities. For vigorous-intensity exercise, the CDC recommends a heart rate zone between 77% and 93%. Follow the same formula from above to find your zone limits.
To take your heart rate you simply need to have access to a stopwatch/clock. Using your first two fingers on either hand, palpate (feel) for your pulse at either your neck or wrist (just below the base of your thumb on the wrist). Once you feel the throbbing sensation of your heart beating then count how many beats you feel while watching a clock for a full minute. The number you counted is your bpm. Then check to see if you are within your appropriate heart rate zone. If it is too low, give more effort. If it is too high, slow down. If you get good at this practice, then you can count for 30 seconds and double your number or for 15 seconds and multiply by 4. If you are choosing to live actively and making the choice to be physically active your health will benefit from it!
And Follow Social Distancing Guidelines!
The University of Mount Olive is a private institution rooted in the liberal arts tradition with defining Christian values. The University, sponsored by the Convention of Original Free Will Baptists, has education service centers in Mount Olive, New Bern, Wilmington, Seymour Johnson Air Forces Base, Research Triangle Park, Washington, and Jacksonville. For more information, visit www.umo.edu.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Target Heart Rate and Estimated Maximum Heart Rate. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/measuring/heartrate.htm
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2019). Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition.
Virgile, A. (2019). Resistance Training for Older Adults: Position Statement from the National Strength and Conditioning Association