How much exercise is enough?

How much exercise is enough?

So after being given Government guidelines to exercise for at least 30 minutes for five days a week, now researchers from the University of Bath say that getting just half that amount can improve your health. What are we to believe?

Researchers have found that by taking 75 minutes of light exercise each week – including brisk walking – can make a “big difference” to health and cut a person’s risk of serious illness.

The research was spearheaded by Professor Conrad Earnest at the university’s department for health, who studied patients with metabolic syndrome - a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

The syndrome puts people at a greater risk of strokes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Designed and carried out in America the study was aimed to discover what proportion of exercise needs to be taken each week before any health benefits are seen. US guidelines recommend that adults do at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week, such as brisk walking and swimming for two or more days a week.

Participants in the study were split into groups and given exercise regimes set at 50 per cent, 100 per cent and 150 per cent of the recommended levels.

The research referred back to criteria for metabolic syndrome set out in the National Cholesterol Education Programme, which includes details such as waist circumference and blood pressure, and used an analytical technique developed by researchers at the Cambridge Medical Research Council.

The results showed that these metabolic syndrome characteristics were improved in those who did as little as 50 per cent of the guidelines.

But by giving this advice, that doing less exercise is still beneficial, don’t we run the risk of remaining lazy with our lifestyles. Already we are reaching a crisis point with the amount of people becoming “overweight” and “obese” in the UK.

Just 75 minutes of exercise might well be better than doing nothing, but is it really enough? The message should surely be to do substantial exercise each day to some extent. It’s not just about trying to give people an excuse to do the absolute minimum. Instead, we should be encouraging life-long healthy habits, not just for people who are reaching an unhealthy weight, but for children who are learning habits of their parents and peers.

Is it enough to tell people that they only need to do small bursts of exercise or should we be more forceful in encouraging more rigorous exercise and fitness regimes where people start to maintain a healthy weight – preventing a whole host of diseases, and thus saving the National Health Service millions in cures for things that are preventable?

Not many people “enjoy” physical exercises in the strict sense of the word. Many understand its importance in living a full and healthy life, and those who don’t need to realise that it is essential in the fight against obesity and ill health.

Already many are losing grip on what a healthy diet means. Faced with a massive choice of fast food, microwave meals, calorie laden biscuits and snacks and fizzy drinks, the least we can do is to try and balance this with exercise. If people consume huge amounts of calories then they have to workout considerably to use the amount of energy that they have taken on board.

Diet and exercise is a confusing world. There are new “diets” coming out every other week and a new “recommended” amount of exercise that we should take. What needs to be done is for people to be educated from an early age about the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.

It may well be the case that 75 minutes of exercise a week is better than nothing. But it’s not enough for most people (health permitting) and it should be encouraged that we do more. This new research, interesting as it is, does not mean people should cut their exercise plan in half.

It’s hard enough to stick to an exercise programme at the best of times, but when new research comes out to “support” doing less, then it’s highly tempting to just give up.

Support comes in many forms when trying to lose weight. Always start with your GP. Join a gym and take advice from qualified instructors. If you struggle with your weight then a nutritionist may well be the right path to take. Friends and family can all support you with your exercise plan and remember that if you want to lose weight then the only person that can do it is you.

Push yourself and you’ll see benefits to your body and to your overall health and wellbeing.

So after reading all the research and looking at the results, is 75 minutes a week enough? I certainly don’t think so.

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