Physical Activity and Fitness
What is Physical Activity?
Physical activity is the movement of our bodies, using energy. It can be daily activities like doing chores around the house, yard work, or walking the dog. Exercise is a form of physical activity, geared toward improving your health and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.
Blue Cross Blue Shield encourages individuals to fit exercise and physical activity into your daily life. There are different types of exercises to achieve these recommendations:
1. Balance Exercises - Can help reduce and prevent falls; these include standing on one foot, yoga, and tai chi.
2. Endurance Exercises - Also called aerobic exercises, these include brisk walks/jogs, yard work or dancing
3. Strength Exercises - These exercises make your muscles stronger, and include lifting weights, using resistance bands, or using your own body weight
4. Flexibility Exercises - Strengthen your muscles, and include stretching and yoga, a practice of healing through breath and movement.
To learn more about these types of physical activities, visit the National Institute on Aging at NIH. For more information about yoga, click the button below.
Benefits of Physical Activity:
The benefits of exercise go beyond being physically fit. Exercise is the key to a balanced lifestyle and good health. As a guideline, adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least five days a week, and moderate to high intensity muscle strengthening activity at least two days a week (American Heart Association, 2014). Here are some other reasons you should incorporate physical activity into your lifestyle:
- Supports Heart Health – exercise can cut the risk of heart disease by nearly 50% while preventing major risk factors such as obesity and high blood pressure
- Controls Cholesterol– physical activity can improve blood cholesterol profiles by raising HDL levels (good cholesterol), which helps eliminate LDL (bad cholesterol) while also lowering triglycerides, another fat carried in the blood
- Improves Muscle Tone & Reduces Body Fat – when you build or maintain muscle mass, your body learns to burn fat more efficiently, even at rest
- Builds Bone Strength – weight-bearing exercises like weight lifting, walking, and tennis build better, stronger bones that help prevent fractures later in life
- Improves Insulin – frequent physical activity enables the body to use insulin more efficiently, helping to control the onset of type 2 diabetes
- Helps Kick Cancer – cancer risk can be reduced with frequent physical activity. It helps remove waste and toxins more quickly, while preventing obesity, which is linked to many cancers
- Increases Aerobic Capacity – improves cardiorespiratory health so you don’t get winded as quickly
- Weight Control - when combined with proper nutrition, physical activity helps control weight and prevent obesity, which is a major risk factor for many diseases
- Reduces Anxiety & Depression - exercise improves self-esteem and helps manage stress.
Here are some tips that can help you achieve your fitness goals and maintain a balanced lifestyle:
- Strive for more moderate activity throughout the day
- Walk or bike to work if you can
- Park farther away than usual
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator at least once each day
- Think outside the box – walking the dog, vacuuming, gardening, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, and other household chores all count as physical activity!
- Stand up to stretch or walk around at least once each hour
- Focus on your breath during physical activity – inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth; this helps maximize oxygen to your brain and muscles for a more productive session
- Always take time to stretch before and after working out, to prevent injury and soreness
- Don’t skip the warm-up and cool down before/after more vigorous activity
- Stay hydrated – drink plenty of water before, during, and after physical activity
- Step out of your comfort zone – try new classes with an old friend or make a new friend in class.
Other self-care tips:
- Always stop to take a break if you need one
- Listen to your body – some days you might need a fast-paced walk or jog, while other days you may just need some gentle yoga or stretching
- Be in the moment and focus on your activity; don’t let your mind wander to your personal “to-do” list
- Keep your fitness gear organized together so you don’t waste time looking for a missing item
- Have a light snack 30 minutes to one hour before physical activity; you don’t want to be too full from a heavy meal or too lightheaded from not eating enough.
- Massages are more than just luxury – they help release muscle tension that can cause pain and stiffness, so treat yourself to one if you’re feeling sore, stressed or tense
- Make your health a priority - schedule self-care time (reading, walking, yoga, meditation, journaling, or a hot bath) in your calendar; taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of others (if not more!)
- Treat yourself – wearing new sneakers or workout clothing that you love can help motivate you
Community Wellness Programs and Support Groups
To learn more about physical fitness and exercise, click the button below.
The Practice of Yoga
Yoga is an ancient posturing and breathing technique originating in India. It uses movement, meditation, and breathing exercises to reach a state of physical and mental relaxation. There are a wide variety of benefits from a regular yoga practice, including:
- Reduced stress
- Reduced pain associated with some chronic conditions
- Reduced insomnia
- Improved stamina
- Lower blood pressure
- Enhanced quality of life
- Improved mental state and brain function
- Better ability to cope with situations
The Benefits of Yoga
In addition to the benefits mentioned above, yoga is great for helping you feel good and function better on a daily basis. Yoga has been proven to help improve conditions including poor circulation, high blood pressure, arthritis, limited mobility, lower back pain, headaches, tension, stress, and depression. Practicing yoga regularly can help:
- Reduce your risk for injury
- Increase concentration
- Improve your strength, balance, and stability
- Improve posture
- Improve digestion
- And much more!
Types of Yoga
A common misconception is that you have to be flexible to do yoga, but the truth is that anyone can do yoga. There are several different forms of yoga to choose from, so it is important to do some research into the different types in order to select one that best meets your fitness level and goals. Some common styles include: