“Exercise 30 minutes a day, five days each week.”

By now, most of us have heard the recommendation Health.gov promoted in their 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines. Yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 percent of American adults DO NOT meet this basic activity requirement.

Now, thanks to meta-analyses of historical data, medical providers can point to a multitude of “new” health benefits attributed to 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.

Change the way you think about exercise.

First, let’s define “moderate activity.” It’s any exercise or activity that increases your heart rate to 110 to 140 beats per minute and sustains that heart rate for 30 minutes. Scheduling time for moderate exercise in your daily routine is an economical way to change your health. But this activity doesn’t have to take place in the gym, involve jumping jacks, push-ups or lunges. It’s any movement that boosts your heart rate, such as:

  • Walking three miles per hour for 30 minutes
  • Vacuuming
  • Washing the windows
  • Mowing the grass
  • Shoveling snow

Normal everyday activities count to your 30 minutes a day.

Exercise is being touted as the best “new” treatment in medicine’s modern history

… and for good reason. Evidence points to exercise being as effective as some drug therapies and surgeries but without the high cost or side effects. Research shows:

Physical therapy for low-back pain can be as effective as surgery two years post treatment.

  • Exercise improves the movement and muscle strength of people who have osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • People who exercise change their brain chemistry. The increased blood flow to the brain promotes cell and neuron growth. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) also increases, which helps repair and protect brain cells.
  • Exercise boosts mood and can help alleviate depression. Being active allows the body to release the feel-good brain chemicals: dopamine, endorphins, norepinephrine and serotonin. Some people have used exercise to replace their anti-depressant medication.
  • Cancer patients exercise to treat chronic fatigue syndrome, which is often a side effect of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Even though it sounds counterintuitive to combat fatigue with exercise, it works.
  • Exercise add years to your life. Exercise produces molecules that preserve the protective caps of your chromosomes (telomeres). Longer chromosomes may mean longer life.
  • The health and mobility of older people continue to improve when they exercise, no matter their age. Though individuals who are 70 or 80 may not be able to lift heavy weights, new research shows completing more repetitions while using lighter weights has significant benefits.

Developing and practicing a consistent, moderate exercise routine can help you regain your health. Some people have even reversed chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and depression.

Talk to your provider about incorporating exercise into your treatment plan. If you take medication for a pre-existing condition, it’s important to work with your health care provider before you stop taking any prescription medication.