The stats are behind it too. The Center for Disease Control reported that the US population doing sufficient physical activity has increased from 22% in 1996 to 51% in 2014! That is a huge improvement. However, the percentage of the population doing no leisure time physical activity has not changed: still hovering at 25%. This is the population that we need to reach. We know that sedentary people have higher rates of mortality and decreased quality of life.
So, here's my challenge to all you super-fit individuals out there. Help out that person(whether it is a neighbor, loved one, friend or co-worker) who currently does minimal to no physical activity. Now here's the hard part. Don't preach(leave that to me), and meet the individual where they are. Seeing someone as ultra-fit as you are(yes, I'm talking to YOU), may be daunting and so is, likely, the AHA's recommendation of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week. So start small. Help set some reasonable goals. Here's a few suggestions:
- Take into consideration barriers: Inactive people have higher rates of co-morbities such as cancer and obesity, lack of knowledge(unsure of appropriate exercise), resources(location, gym membership, healthy alternatives), and skills about exercise and all may be impacting their real(or perceived) ability to stay active.
- "Some physical activity better than none, more is better than some and any amount of physical activity you do gains some health benefits". This recommendation from Ireland's national guidelines hits it on the nose. Let them know that anything they do is better than nothing.
- Emphasize that any amount of activity above their typical levels will help achieve some health benefits even if it is still below the recommendation.
- Advise people that by sitting less and breaking up sitting time throughout the day by getting up during TV breaks, pacing while on the phone, gentle five minute walks(mid-morning, mid-day and again evening) and walking for short trips can all be ways to increase physical activity throughout the day in a more manageable way.
- Make it fun. We are all more likely to stick with something that we enjoy doing. Just because you like running, swimming and/or biking, doesn't mean that those are the only three activities that keep you fit. Help them find ways to enjoy themselves.
- Have them join a group. Sometimes(but not always) having a group of people to workout with can make the time go by quicker, promote retention and keep them motivated. Amber's Tuesday track caters to athletes of all abilities as does her Saturday morning swim group. There are also plenty of adult sports leagues if so inclined. Join them for the first or have them join your team.
|Amber's track team|
- Once people are used to these small incremental changes(and thus are no longer sedentary), they may now be in a better position to start incorporating moderate intensity aerobic or strengthening exercises and eventually get closer to the 150 minutes/ week mark.*
A reward for your help? Gratitude and feelings of worth have been linked to decreased stress levels and higher levels of quality of life. Paying it forward pays back.
|Hiking, kayaking, swimming. Find what they love to do.|
*Remember, physical activity is only one element of health. Make sure you are well-rounded. Here's to living life to the fittest!