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K-State Today

June 11, 2013

National Workplace Safety Month: Increasing physical activity

Submitted by Lisa Linck

Getting and staying active has reached "motherhood and apple pie" status. It’s hard to find a downside to pursuing a more active, less sedentary life. According to the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, "Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health." Getting fit can help to:

  • Control weight
  • Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Reduce the risk for Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • Reduce the risk of some cancers
  • Strengthen bones and muscles
  • Improve mental health and mood
  • Improve your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls in older adults
  • Increase your chances of living longer
  • Sleep better

While no one believes physical activity is a magic bullet, it’s hard to deny this impressive list of benefits.

Increasing physical activity

The busy American lifestyle leaves little room for physical activity. It is much easier to be physically inactive than to engage in physical activity. According to the Health and Human Services Administration:

  • More than 60 percent of U.S. adults do not engage in the recommended amount of physical activity.
  • Approximately 25 percent of Americans are not active at all.

According to the CDC:

  • If just 10 percent of adults began a regular walking program, $5.6 billion could be saved in costs due to heart disease.
  • If an overweight person loses and maintains 10 percent weight loss, it will reduce a person’s lifetime medical costs by $2,200-$5,300 by lowering costs associated with hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and high cholesterol and increase life expectancy.

There are simple ways to incorporate physical activity into anyone’s lifestyle; what’s important is to get the body moving. Moderate amounts of physical activity can produce substantial health benefits.

Physical activity and safety

Although physical activity is extremely beneficial to the body and mind, the "no pain, no gain" motto is not the best to follow. Physical activity can improve balance and strengthen muscles and bones. Strong muscles and bones can reduce the risk of injury, but pushing the body past its limits can increase this risk.  

Participate in consistent, daily forms of physical activity. A slow progression in activity levels will help reduce the risk of injury. Listen to the body’s signals; any sign of pain or discomfort should be taken seriously and activity should be discontinued. Continuing activity after an injury, even if minor, can exacerbate its severity and setback in any progress made. Take any injury to the head seriously. Loss of consciousness or head injury should be medically evaluated for concussion.

Personal protective equipment, or PPE, can reduce risk of injury and concussion. Proper equipment should always be worn when engaging in physical activity. 

  • Equipment and protective equipment should be appropriate for body and size
  • Always wear proper footwear
  • Helmets should be used when appropriate
  • Maintain and check equipment regularly
  • Consider weather conditions and wear proper clothing and equipment when engaging in physical activity

Physical activity guidelines

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, for substantial health benefits, the recommended amount of physical activity for adults includes any of the following:

  • At least 150 minutes, or two hours and 30 minutes, a week of moderate-intensity
  • At least 75 minutes, or one hour and 15 minutes, a week of vigorous-intensity
  • An equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous intensity aerobic activity

Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes and preferably it should be spread throughout the week. Additional health benefits are associated with muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate or high intensity and involve all major muscle groups. Adults should include muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week.

Increasing aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes, or 5 hours, a week of moderate intensity, increasing physical activity to 150 minutes a week of vigorous intensity or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activity will provide more extensive health benefits.

Find out more ways to improve or increase physical activity at the CDC's Physical Activity for Everyone.

Did You Know?

  • The annual medical burden of obesity increased to 9.1 percent in 2006 compared to 6.5 percent in 1998. 
  • Medical expenses for obese employees are estimated to be 42 percent higher than for a person with healthy weight.  
  • According to the American Cancer Society, one-third of all cancer deaths are related to overweight or obesity, physical inactivity, and nutrition.
  • Most health benefits occur with at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking. Additional benefits occur with more physical activity.
  • The benefits of physical activity far outweigh the possibility of adverse outcomes.
  • Mental health benefits have been found in people who do aerobic or a combination of aerobic and muscle– strengthening activities three to five days a week for 30 to 60 minutes at a time. Some research has shown that even lower levels of physical activity also may provide some benefits. 

An additional resource: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans