Why Your Steps Matter

By:  Lynsey Bish

Marathoners are the thoroughbreds of high performance, but even if you are a slow and steady jogger or walker, a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that even five or ten minutes a day of low-intensity activities can be enough to extend life by several years.  This minimal healthy “dose” of exercise is smaller than many might assume.

Running is a widespread and convenient physical activity with a steady growth, despite some public concerns about the possible harmful effects of running[1]. It is well-known that physical activity has significant health benefits. The World Health Organization and the U.S. government have recently released evidence-based Physical Activity Guidelines, recommending at least 150 min. of moderate-intensity or 75 min. of vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week[2].

This also applies to those who enjoy a brisk walk in the park with pets or friends. Without a doubt, making a decision to even start exercising – whether it’s walking, jogging, cycling, or using an elliptical machine – will pay dividends in the long run.

Although running can trim away some of your existing risk of cardiovascular disease, it doesn’t completely eliminate it. The combined effects of lifestyle, diet, and family history still contribute to your lifetime risk.

Mood Enhancement

If you’ve ever gone for a run or workout after a stressful day, chances are you felt better afterward. But the effects of physical activity extend beyond the short-term. Research shows that any form of exercise can also alleviate long-term depression[3]. Some evidence comes from broad, population-based correlation studies, and there is epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people.

Fight-or-Flight

Researchers have also explored running as a tool for treating – and perhaps preventing – anxiety[4]. When we’re spooked or threatened, our nervous systems jump into action, setting off a cascade of reaction in our body. People with heightened sensitivities to anxiety respond to those sensations with fear.

The book, Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression  and Enhancing Well-being, by the Anxiety Research and Treatment program at Southern Methodist University, reasoned that regular workouts might help people prone to anxiety become less likely to panic when they experience fight or flight like symptoms. The science behind this theory states that your body is producing many of the same physical reactions as anxiety like heavy perspiration or increased heart rate.

There lies a problem with only prescribing exercise for mental health. Researchers don’t yet have a handle on which types of exercise are the most effective, how much is necessary, or even whether exercise works best in conjunction with other therapies. The is potential exists, but further research needs to be conducted.

Going Green

Go green, minimize your carbon footprint, recycle, are all common words and phrases that are often used in relation to the environment. There are countless opportunities to get out and exercise. More than just a training environment, it turns out that people who exercise outdoors, in their natural settings, are benefiting from more than just their sweat efforts.

Research has shown that time spent in nature has numerous benefits for a person’s well-being, from reduced feelings of tension and anger to overall improvements in mood[5].

So why do we feel so much better? One theory is that by spending time in natural environments, our concentration and overall functioning is restored. By comparing this to our indoor environments, which are full of mentally fatiguing stimuli (TV, phones, computers), our outdoor environment requires effortless attention.

If you’re new to exercising outdoors, take time to adapt: start with a few minutes at the end of your workout to do some cool down stretches, relax, and enjoy your surroundings.

Sign your company up today for the SparkPittsburgh Company Step Challenge and prove that you are committed to being one of the healthiest and most active companies in Western Pennsylvania.

To sign your company up visit sparkpittsburgh.com.


Resources:

[1] Statistics. Running USA. Available at: http://www.runningusa.org/statistics. Accessed July 19, 2017.

[2] Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health. World Health Organization. Available at:http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_recommendations/en/. Accessed July 19, 2017.

[3] Journal of the American College of Cardiology Sep 2012, 60 (12) 1064-1066; DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2012.05.015

[4] Journal of the American College of Cardiology Nov 2010, 56 (20) 1681-1682; DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2010.07.022

[5] 1. Brown K, Stanforth D. Go green with outdoor activity. ACSM Health Fitness J. 2017

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s