Importance of Physical Activity


By Dr Ben Bassey, 5th May 2014
The importance of regular  physical activity to our well being can not be overemphasised.  Regular physical activity is vital to maintaining our overall good health. Certain level of physical activity helps in keeping us healthy, and functional. There is huge overlaps between our physical health, mental health and spiritual health. We are physically healthy, this impact positively on our mental and spiritual health.
Everyone can enjoy  health benefits of physical activity , irrespective of age, ethnicity, faith, shape, size or medical condition.
Both your diet and physical activity   plays important role in weight control. We gain weight when the calories we burn, including those burned during physical activity, are less than the calories you eat or drink. When we are over weight, it carries some cardio-vascular risk.
In the course of my clinical practice as a psychiatrist,  I have observed noticeable lack of physical activity amongst the the patients, especially the elderly following their retirement usually around the age of 65 years.
Health Benefits
There are convincing research evidence of benefits of optimal level of weekly physical activity, including:
Good  control of your weight (reduced cardio-vascular risk);
Reduce your risk  of type 2 diabetes, hypertension or  metabolic syndrome;
Prevent  risk of cardiovascular disease, such as ischaemic heart attack, angina or stroke;
Prevent  your risk of having certain cancers;
Strengthen your bones and muscles, and prevent risk of osteoporosis;
Improved stress tolerant level and general well being;
Improve your  mood and overall mental health ;
Keep your happier with improved confidence, with less chance of falling sick.
Reduce your risk of some cancers.
Increase your chances of living longer and prevent falls as you get older.
Regular physical activity helps to keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp in your old age. It can also reduce your risk of depression and may help you sleep better.
Regular physical activity helps with arthritis, stroke prevention, and other conditions affecting the joints, muscles and bones.
Body Mass Index( BMI )
The body mass index is a function of our weight and Height. It’s calculated as : Weight (KG) / Height in centimetres square. It is easy to calculate, with facility on internet for easy calculation. The normal range of BMI is usually between 18-25.  BMI above 25 is seen as overweight, and above 30 is accepted as obesity. Obesity is a major health issue with increased cardio- vascular risk. BMI below 18 is seen as underweight, while below 15 is accepted as significant Eating Disorder usually caused by Anorexia Nervosa.
How much Physical Exercises do we need Weekly?
The exact amount of physical activity needed varies greatly from person to person, and is also related to daily calories intake.
There is literature evidence that  people who are physically active for about 7 hours a week have about 40 percent lower risk of dying early than those who are active for less than 30 minutes a week.
There is research evidence also that doing aerobic or a mix of aerobic and muscle building activity, 3 to 5 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes can give you the required health benefits. There is also scientific evidence that even lower levels of physical activity can be beneficial (Centre for Disease Control & Prevention, CDC).
As you get older,  it’s important to protect your muscles, bones, and joints by daily strengthening them. Not only do they support your body and help you move, but keeping bones, joints and muscles healthy can help ensure that you’re able to do your daily activities of daily living such as house chores, gardening, shopping, cooking, climbing stairs  etc which helps to maintain confidence and general well being as one gets older. A functional limitation is a loss of the ability to do everyday activities such as climbing stairs, grocery shopping, or playing with your grandchildren. This can happen as a result of anxiety and fear following a fall, especially if associated with  fracture.
Doing muscles strengthening activities each week along with moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking, can help reduce your risk of falling.
Metabolic syndrome
 Metabolic syndrome is a condition in which you have some combination of too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, or high blood sugar. Research evidence shows that lower rates of these conditions are seen with 2 hours to 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of at least moderate-intensity aerobic activity. And the more physical activity you do, the lower your risk will be.
If you have been diagnosed with a chronic health condition such as hypertension, arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease, talk with your doctor to find out if your condition limits you, in any way, your ability to be active. Then, work with your doctor to come up with achievable physical  activity plan. It is important not to avoid physical activities completely.
Everyone should enjoy health benefits of physical activity, irrespective of age, ethnicity, shape, size or disease condition. Unfortunately, many medical conditions such chronic pains, arthritis, previous falls and fracture tend to discourage people, especially the aged from exercises. However, it good to know that regular gentle exercises even in sitting position can be beneficial and are advantageous. After all, half bread is better than none. The health benefits of such physical activity out weigt associated risk.
You don’t have to do high amounts of activity or vigorous physical activity to reduce your risk of premature death. You can put yourself at lower risk of dying early by doing at least 2 hours 30 minutes a week of moderate intensity aerobic activity.