Stay active, stay fitter  |  Photo Credit: iStock Images
- We live in a world that has altered tremendously within a span of 100 years.
- If our ancestors went through real physical toil, the automation era has given us physically sedentary, though perhaps, mentally stressful lifestyles.
- As a result of less movement and too much sitting, we are inviting lifestyle diseases.
At least five hours of moderate activity a week may be required to avoid midlife hypertension, a University of California-San Francisco-led study shows. That’s double the amount of time-spend recommended on Physical Activity (PA) earlier. Most of us begin to slow down as soon as we get off academics and campus life. 30-year-olds seem to adopt a slower pace than their 20-year-old version.
As a result of sedentary lifestyles, our younger populations face grave conditions like Type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, etc. Dubbed the “silent killer,” high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, stroke, and even dementia in older patients. It’s also one of the hallmark symptoms of cardiovascular disease, the number one killer globally. And sadly, though in most cases it is preventable by making correct but not always convenient lifestyle choices, few people actually do.
Regular physical activity is proven to help prevent and manage non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and several cancers. It also helps prevent hypertension, maintain healthy body weight and can improve mental health, quality of life and well-being.
What is Physical Activity?
WHO defines physical activity as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that require energy expenditure. When you run for the transport, or use some moderate or vigorous activity to get to and from places, or as part of a person’s work – the physical activity involved improves your health. Popular ways to be active include walking, cycling, wheeling, sports, active recreation and play, and can be done at any level of skill and for enjoyment by everybody.
Too low a benchmark?
WHO recommends that adults aged 18–64 years should do at least 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity; or at least 75–150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity; or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity throughout the week.
Current American guidelines indicate that adults should have a minimum of two-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week, but a new study led by UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals reveals that boosting exercise to as much as five hours a week may protect against hypertension in midlife – particularly if it is sustained in one’s 30s, 40s and 50s.
A new study throws more light:
In the study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers followed approximately 5,000 adults ages 18 to 30 for 30 years. The participants were asked about their exercise habits, medical history, smoking status and alcohol use. Blood pressure and weight were monitored, together with cholesterol and triglycerides.
Hypertension was noted if blood pressure was 130 over 80 mmHg, the threshold established in 2017 by the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association.
How was the study carried out?
The 5,115 participants had been enrolled by the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study and came from urban sites in Birmingham, Ala., Chicago, Minneapolis and Oakland, Calif. Approximately half the participants were Black (51.6 per cent) and the remainder were white. Just under half (45.5 per cent) were men.
When researchers looked at the 17.9 per cent of participants who had a moderate exercise for at least five hours a week during early adulthood – double the recommended minimum – they found that the likelihood of developing hypertension was 18 per cent lower than for those who exercised less than five hours a week. The likelihood was even lower for the 11.7 per cent of participants who maintained their exercise habits until age 60.
Conclusion and learnings:
- Young adults must step up their exercise routines to reduce their chances of developing high blood pressure or hypertension – a condition that may lead to heart attack and stroke, as well as dementia in later life.
- Patients should be asked about physical activity in the same way as they are routinely checked for blood pressure, glucose and lipid profiles, obesity and smoking.
- WHO recommends that young adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities at a moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these provide additional health benefits.
- One may increase moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to more than 300 minutes, or do more than 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity throughout the week for additional health benefits.
- WHO says we should limit the amount of time spent being sedentary. Replacing sedentary time with physical activity of any intensity (including light intensity) provides health benefits, and
- To help reduce the detrimental effects of high levels of sedentary behaviour on health, all adults and older adults should aim to do more than the recommended levels of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity.
Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.