Carpe diem! It’s okay if you didn’t know this is Latin for “seize the day” or that the Roman poet Horace is credited with coining this expression. It communicates the idea that we should enjoy life while we can, and not delay in having fun and seeking enjoyment. And on that note, what better time to enjoy being active than summer?
Vitality members already know all about the benefits of being active. It’s hard-wired into the Vitality program because regular physical activity is one of the best ways to improve your health. We already understand how it improves your heart health, and as we continue to research the effects of activity on our brain, eventually we will understand fully how it improves our mental health, too.
Even if you’re already active, you might not be sure how much physical activity you need to reap the benefits. For starters, as long as you are doing some activity, you are benefitting. As you become more active, even just by walking more steps in a day, you will benefit more, and if you can up the intensity and engage in more structured exercise sessions where you might be a little (or a lot!) out of breath then you will benefit even more. Strictly speaking, the guidelines recommend up to 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous activity each week. Striving for that amount is an excellent goal, but if you fall short you should know it’s not an “all or nothing” situation…doing some is better than none, and doing more is better than doing some. If you are active, you are winning! Period.
Sports clothing companies will have us think that we need to look the look to be active, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Your heart, muscles, and brain have no idea if you are jogging one mile or just gardening in your yard. It. All. Counts! But there are some ways to level up your activity game so that you get the most benefit. Since activities that cause your heart to beat faster are more beneficial, you can try alerting the speed of your gardening tasks. For example, try shoveling or raking harder for 30 seconds at a time followed by a couple of minutes at a slower pace. This helps stimulate healthy adaptations but doesn’t make it so hard that you fatigue and have to stop early. And in our era of battery-powered everything, you can also opt for non-motorized gardening tools to make it more challenging for your heart and muscles.
The exact same concept applies to walking—which is an excellent way to be active since, as humans, we are particularly good walkers. To get even more benefit from your walking routine, add some periods where you walk faster. It can be for a set time, or it could be between two points on your walk – for example, from a street sign to the next corner. You might discover that over time you can incorporate short periods of running into your walks, which would provide additional benefit.
Most importantly, have fun this summer while you are active! Seize the day, the summer, and your health, all at the same time.
With a PhD in Exercise Physiology, Jonathan Dugas spends his days thinking about how we can help more people be more active. With four Ironman finishes and 13 marathons and counting, he’ll see you out on the road.