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According to the New Scientist (09.01.10) Let’s Get Physical the scientists who measure the effects of exercise, what and how much we need, broadly agree on the general recommendations and that maybe they’ve not done the best of jobs in communicating it to the rest of us.
They say that where people aren’t exercising at all or enough comes down to two areas, (a) the confusion about what guidelines to follow re best advice or (b) pure laziness.
Heart disease in the 20th Century
Where the rise in heart attacks during the 20th century was seen as one of the main conditions to fear, there are now better explanations of why:
- More infectious diseases were addressed, which meant this condition came to the fore (and noticed more)
- In the west lifestyles became less healthy, leading to heart conditions
Does exercise help prevent disease
It goes on to highlight that the first study to identify this was carried out and reported in the Lancet vol 265 – pg 1053 (1953). At that time UK Buses (public transport) had a driver and a conductor, and this was who the study of heart attacks was based on. The findings showed that conductors (whose job was running up and down stairs (on the bus) collecting fares, suffered half as many heart attacks as their driver colleagues (a sedentary role).
This was the first time that lifestyle had been connected with health and Jerry Morris, an epidemiologist at the UK’s Medical Research Council who lead the study stated:
“It was the first hint that new frightening epidemic (as they called heart attacks) could be linked to the way we live.”
Since then many studies have been carried out on the benefits of exercise for the heart, circulation, and most other systems in the body. It’s believed that exercise is a preventative for the following conditions:
- Liver and Kidney disease
What counts as exercise?
As a standard it’s recommended we aim for 150-mins / wk of moderate intensity exercise, but how to define moderate?is the question.
‘Gauging the intensity of an activity by how fast it makes your heart beat, is old hat.’
The preferred gauge now is metabolic rate MET (metabolic equivalent) and this is the rate measured during exercise divided by the rate when doing nothing. Moderate exercise is anything that shows a rate of between 3 and 6:
|Light Intensity Activities||
|writing, desk work, typing||
|walking, 1.7 mph (2.7 km/h), level ground, strolling, very slow||
|walking, 2.5 mph (4 km/h)||
|Moderate Intensity Activities||
3 to 6
|bicycling, stationary, 50 watts, very light effort||
|walking 3.0 mph (4.8 km/h)||
|calisthenics, home exercise, light or moderate effort, general||
|walking 3.4 mph (5.5 km/h)||
|bicycling, <10 mph (16 km/h), leisure, to work or for pleasure||
|bicycling, stationary, 100 watts, light effort||
|Vigorous Intensity Activities||
|callisthenics (e.g. pushups, situps, pullups,jumping jacks), heavy, vigorous effort||
|running jogging, in place||
Gauge your rate
In order to gauge your metabolic rate requires a precise lab measurement of oxygen-uptake, but in the unlikelihood of taking one of those you can check out the Compendium Of Physical Activities here.
It gives you all the information you require, with regards to which activities fall into the category Moderate Exercise, as well as the others.
Fiona Bell, joint head of the National Centre For Physical Activity And Health at Loughborough University (in the UK) when referring to walking says:
“There should be a slight elevation in your heart rate but you should be able to talk easily.”
And that people tend to overestimate how fast they have to walk to achieve it. In 2009 Simon Marshall (and his colleagues) at San Diego a specialist in exercise and sports psychology came up with a new way to measure METS.
The results showed that for most people 3 METS = 100-steps a minute – American Journal Of Preventative Medicine – vol 36 – pg 410). This method simply requires a pedometer and a watch and the suggestion is to select a familiar walk (noting the no of steps from the pedometer) then you can easily calculate the time, and set personal targets for improvement.
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