Are you getting the recommended amount of exercise?

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No one is claiming that regular exercise not only improves overall health and fitness, but also lowers the risk of many life-altering chronic diseases. Now, it looks like a new study has found that American women are not as likely as their male counterparts to get the recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day.

So what is moderate to vigorous exercise? This is the kind of workout where you work hard enough to increase your heart rate and start sweating. You can speak but not sing a song aloud. Examples of moderately strenuous aerobic activities include brisk walking, water aerobics, level biking, doubles tennis, and mowing the lawn with a push mower.

Vigorous intensity activity makes you breathe hard and fast, with a fairly high heart rate. You won’t be able to say more than a few words without stopping to breathe. Examples of actions at this intensity level include jogging / running, swimming lengths, fast or hill biking, singles tennis, or basketball.

The most recent research, conducted at Oregon State University, included more than 1,000 men and women from a nationally representative sample. Looking at the data, the researchers found that women only got about 18 minutes of exercise per day, while men got 30 minutes. In the study population, just over one in three women had been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, and one in five reported symptoms of depression.

What sets this study apart from others is that it uses an objective measure of activity. The subjects wore a device known as an accelerometer capable of measuring the amount of activity they did each day. And although women in the study population have better health behaviors, not having 30 minutes (or more) puts them at a health disadvantage.

Those who took at least the recommended amount of exercise were less likely to report depression, were less likely to have problems like high cholesterol, and therefore less likely to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. It was noted during the study that depression increases the risk of carrying belly fat and possibly having insulin resistance, two conditions that are risk factors for potentially dangerous metabolic syndrome.

As to why women don’t get those 30 minutes of exercise per day, there are various explanations …

Some experts suggest that it is around the age of 5 to 6 that exercise habits begin, and because parents are often more concerned about the safety of girls, they restrict their activity more than that of boys. Another suggestion is that female caregivers simply cannot find more than 18 minutes of time per day for themselves. Many cannot even find this.

Exercise will not only help keep your body healthy and your weight under control, it will also reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome. It’s the name given to a group of indicators (high cholesterol and blood pressure, being overweight) that increase your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even debilitating stroke.

Take home message from work – Women should make an effort to get the recommended amount of exercise (30 minutes or more) per day. It should be moderately or vigorously intense and should not include the time you spend warming up or cooling off. Even ten minutes at a time is fine … if that’s all you can do right now. Just make sure you finish the day after hitting the all-important 30-minute mark.

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