Thu, Jul 05, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Walking insufficient exercise: report

The Guardian

Walking is just not enough, according to a new Public Health England review, which revealed a major disconnect between the exercise people need and what they actually do.

Those who thought 10,000 steps per day or a brisk daily trudge from a further bus stop meant they were doing enough to stay fit and healthy have got it wrong, the review found.

People should also all be doing taichi, weight lifting or ballroom dancing — although carrying home heavy shopping bags might do the trick, it showed.

Aerobic exercise, such as walking or gardening, is good for the heart and improves the circulation.

However, muscle and bone strengthening and balance activities are also vital for health and future well-being, but they are neglected, the review said.

In older adults, poor muscle strength increased the risk of a fall by 76 percent, the agency said, adding that those who have already had a fall are three times more likely to fall again.

Strengthening and balance activities not only help prevent falls, but also help improve mood and sleeping patterns, increase energy levels and reduce the risk of an early death, it said.

“People’s understanding of walking more and doing aerobic activity — keeping up the heart rate — has grown, but the need for us all to do two sessions of strength and balance exercise a week has been the Cinderella of public health advice,” said Louise Ansari of the Centre for Ageing Better, a charity established with lottery funding a few years ago that cowrote the review.

In 2011, Britain’s four chief medical officers issued guidance containing three pieces of exercise and activity advice, but only some of it has been well followed.

Walking has become increasingly popular, but fewer people have taken on board the need to stand more and sit less, and muscle strengthening and balance have been largely forgotten.

The Health Survey for England in 2016 found that 66 percent of men and 58 percent of women met the aerobic guideline — 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week.

It found that only 31 percent of men and 23 percent of women also did muscle-strengthening exercise, and that dropped to 12 percent over the age of 65.

Muscles tend to be at their peak when a person is in their 30s, and the muscle tone is going by the time they reach 40, unless it is actively worked on, Ansari said.

The best forms of exercise are ball games, racket sports, dance, Nordic walking and resistance training — usually training with weights, but including body weight exercises that can be performed anywhere, the review showed.

These exercise both arms and legs, strengthening muscles and helping people keep their balance, the review said, citing as an example Nordic walking, in which two poles are used.

The type of exercise required depends on a person’s fitness, Ansari said.

“If you are a reasonably fit adult and you do walking, you should also do yoga or taichi or racket sports or resistance training, which could be in a structured exercise class. You can do two long sessions a week,” Ansari said.

“I do an hour and a quarter of taichi every week. That helps with my balance. I should also do something like badminton and circuit or resistance training,” she said.

However, exercise does not have to be in a gym, she added.

“You can also make sure you go up and down stairs a lot instead of taking the lift. That is resistance training. Your body is providing the resistance. You don’t have to go to the gym, as long as you are feeling the ache in your muscles,” Ansari said.

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