Those long morning walks are definitely good for you, but they are not enough. According to a new evidence review commissioned by Public Health England (PHE), many people are neglecting exercise for their muscles and bones.
It is generally recommended that healthy adults perform two types of exercise. Aerobic activity (such as walking or mowing the lawn) should be performed 150 minutes a week if moderate, or 75 minutes a week if vigorous. And secondly, strength training exercises which should be performed two times a week.
While the importance of aerobic activity has seen an increase in awareness, the report found most of the British public did not adequately prioritize the latter.
“Being active isn’t just about getting your heart pumping – although this is a good way to begin,” said Dr. Zoe Williams, physical activity champion for PHE.
While walking can benefit heart health and improve circulation, you can’t depend on it to keep your muscles and bones strong.
“Strength and balance activities work in conjunction with cardio activities like brisk walking, and come with a range of health benefits throughout your life – it’s never too late to start,” Williams added.
Activities like tennis, dancing, and training with weights can help in strengthening muscles and bones. The report also recommended Nordic walking, yoga, cycling, and Tai Chi which may be more suitable for seniors. The report also noted how poor muscle strength was dangerous for older adults, as it increased their risk of a fall by 76 percent.
Strength training is important for younger people as muscles peak during their 30s, according to Louise Ansari from the Centre for Ageing Better. The aging process causes a natural decline in muscle strength after that unless people actively take up strengthening exercises.
Training with weights at the gym is one way, but Ansari also recommends small changes in daily habits to get your muscles to work harder. Going up and down stairs regularly instead of taking the elevator is a classic example.
“That is resistance training. Your body is providing the resistance,” she said.
While the new review focused on the British population, another report recently revealed only a quarter (22.9 percent) of Americans were following the exercise guidelines. Colorado was the healthiest state with 32.5 percent of residents following the guidelines while Mississippi saw only 13.5 percent performing enough aerobic activity and muscle strength training each week.
“On average we’re all living longer and this mixture of physical activities will help us stay well in our youth and remain independent as we age,” said Dr. Alison Tedstone, the head of diet, obesity and physical activity at PHE. “It can also help ease those difficult or life-changing moments like pregnancy, menopause, onset of or diagnosis of disease, retirement, and recovery from hospitalization.”