Why We Need Physical Activity

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Let’s talk about physical activity shall we! There are two types of physical activity; unstructured and structured. Unstructured physical activity refers to movement that expends energy however not typically structured or planned, rather, it represents natural movement throughout a person’s day. These activities include a typical workday, walking the dog, lawnwork and cleaning the house. Structured physical activity is planned and intentional movement or exercise-like fitness classes such as Zumba, Crossfit, yoga or a program designed by fitness professionals such as personal trainers. These activities are normally scheduled, with a predetermined date and time, have a set duration, may use fitness equipment and are led by someone with a certification or a degree in physical or sports education.

Both types of physical activity are important however, to lead a healthy lifestyle and to decrease our risk factors for acquiring chronic diseases, it’s crucial to participate in structured physical activity. Participating in structured physical activity can be the difference between a need to take daily medication, have limitations on your activities or diet and need to consistently monitor parameters like blood pressure, blood sugar and other routine labs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 2 adults in the United States live with a chronic disease and half of that group have 2 or more chronic diseases. These diseases include diabetes, cancer, hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart disease. Having these health conditions can seriously increase your risk for other medical problems, such as heart attacks, stroke, depression, thyroid disease and even premature death.

Based on these statistics, the annual health care cost due to inadequate physical activity is estimated around 117 billion dollars. Sadly, only fifty percent of the U.S. adult population get the recommended physical activity they need to help reduce and prevent chronic diseases. If more people participated in physical activity, we could prevent 1 in 10 premature deaths and prevent numerous chronic diseases.

Benefits for adults who elect to engage in physical activity:

  • Lower risk of high blood pressure

  • Lower risk of stroke

  • Improved aerobic fitness

  • Improved mental health

  • Improved cognitive function

  • Reduced arthritis symptoms

  • Lower risk for weight gain

As a society, our reluctance to reduce morbidity and mortality through increased physical activity and exercise are observed in every segment of our population. Youth, as well as adults are impacted by our lack of physical fitness, which diminishes our cognitive function, quality, as well as quantity, of life.

One thing to note is that health is not static. Our health status changes, sometimes dramatically, depending on the choices we make. These changes are often slow to develop as changes in our environment unlock genetic factors that pre-determine risks for our overall health. For instance, if you have a family history of diabetes, heart disease or cancer, you have an inherently increased risk of you also developing these health conditions. The great news is you can greatly reduce your risk of acquiring these chronic illnesses by changing your endogenous and environmental factors, like diet, activity, amount of lean muscle and body weight.

Because this process is often gradual, we are not aware of when we transition from one state of health to another which causes a lack of urgency or focus on our overall fitness. For those of you that are more visual learners, to help you understand this concept better, below is an illustration of the spectrum of the health continuum.

When reviewing this information, please note that even as a newborn, we can start at any point on this spectrum and may have an unrecognized illness or future medical condition. That is why medical preventive screenings, good nutrition and regular structured physical activity are essential, even in your early years.

One indicator of decreasing health and fitness is weight gain. Terms like being overweight and obese are simply ways of describing how a person’s body weight has exceeded the structural and functional capacity to function normally which is, by definition, unhealthy which lowers your position on the health spectrum. A general measurement for calculating adult health is the body mass index (BMI). Essentially the BMI measures the body fat based on height and weight. BMI calculators are available online, apps and using fitness tracking tools such as a Fitbit or you can calculate it yourself by dividing your weight in kg divided by your height in meters squared: BMI=weight (kg) / [height (m)]2

For those non metric users you can use: Weight in pounds, divided by height in inches (squared), multiplied by 703 or weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703. BMI=(lb/(in)2]x703

In short, here are the BMI categories:

  • Underweight = <18.5

  • Normal weight = 18.5–24.9

  • Overweight = 25–29.9

  • Obese = BMI of 30 or greater

Many times, overweight and obesity classification are due to poor nutrition and physical inactivity. It is estimated that over 70 million of Americans are either overweight or obese. According to the CDC, the prevalence of obesity among U.S. adults was 42.4% in 2017–2018. There was no significant difference in the prevalence of obesity between men and women overall or by age group.

Beyond the statistics associated with overweight and obesity rates, here are other negative factors associated with poor nutrition, inactivity and declining health according to the CDC:

High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol

  • High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke because it damages the lining of the arteries, making them more susceptible to the buildup of plaque, which narrows the arteries leading to the heart and brain.

  • About 116 million US adults (nearly 1 in 2) have high blood pressure.

  • Only about 1 in 4 of these people have their high blood pressure under control.

  • About 7 in 10 people who have a first heart attack and 8 in 10 people who have a first stroke have high blood pressure.


  • Adults with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke as people who do not have diabetes.

  • Over time, high blood sugar from diabetes can damage blood vessels in the heart, brain, kidneys, and other organs, leading to heart attacks, kidney disease, and stroke.

  • More than 2 in 3 people with diabetes have high blood pressure. Diabetes also raises triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.

There are other chronic diseases like stroke, liver disease, kidney disease, arthritis, and certain cancers, which the risk of acquiring also increases as your weight increases. However, let's switch our focus to the prevention measures that can lead to the improvement of our health.

So how much physical activity do you need a week? The bare minimum recommendation is for 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity with an additional 2 days of muscle-strengthening activity. This guideline is for healthy individuals to maintain their current health status and individuals just starting their health journey to improve their overall health. However, if you are looking to lose weight, gain muscle mass and/or improve your endurance and strength, that’s a different program and many will need to hire a personal trainer, join a gym or studio, or research and self-direct your way to the fitness level or body you want. For example, say you wanted more flexibility, balance and muscle tone. You may want to attend a live or virtual class in barre, yoga, tai chi or dance fitness.

There are an abundant number of options for structured physical activity to choose from. Free classes are available on apps such as FitOn and YouTube that you can do from anywhere. Paid apps are available as well such as BeachBody, Alo, and Moxie. I personally use Moxie for my live and on demand classes. Moxie is a fitness platform for fitness professionals and small studios to host their classes virtually for their clientele and the application is user friendly for clients to pay, join a live class, take on demand classes based on their schedule and do this all in the comfort of their own home or anywhere in the world. Or you could take more of a traditional route, that of joining a gym, hiring a personal trainer or joining a studio with a program design that will meet your needs and interests.


Physical activity can be enjoyable as well. Along with reducing stress, providing you much needed energy, improved mental focus and so much more! You just need to identify your exercise personality? Many people avoid “exercise” altogether due to bad experiences, however it just may be that you did not know your exercise personality. Answer the following questions below and this will bring you closer to the type of “exercise” you might enjoy:

  • Do you prefer exercising with a large group, one workout partner, or alone?

  • Do you prefer indoor or outdoor exercise?

  • Do you prefer spontaneous, loosely organized activity (such as a game of pickup basketball) or well-planned, clearly structured activity (such as a class or course)?

  • Do you like to compete against other people as part of a team (e.g., hockey)? Against one other person (e.g, boxing)? Against yourself (e.g., climbing)? Or not at all (e.g., yoga)?

  • Do you like exercise to rev you up or calm you down?

  • What do you like to feel when you exercise? Strong? Fast? Energized? Joyful?

  • Do you like exercise to be intellectually challenging (e.g., learning a new skill or doing an obstacle course) or intellectually relaxing (e.g., running on a treadmill, where you can zone out)?

  • Do you prefer someone else to push or direct you, or do you prefer to be self-directed?

  • Do you like exercise to be useful (e.g., learning outdoor survival skills) or playful (e.g., dancing)?

  • What kind of music do you like to listen to when you exercise? And do you like exercising to music at all?

  • What movements or activities make you feel good? What are your strengths, and what movements or activities match those?

Based on your responses to these questions, then go on a search for the activity that fits your preference. If you need help, reach out to a fitness professional and we can partner with you to identify options that will work best for you.

Lastly, yes there is a cost associated with joining a fitness organization or hiring a fitness professional however what price will you pay for failing health? The recommendation is to look at your budget and select an activity or program that will lead to living the best life possible. Need a coach? Join The Self-ish Life nutrition and fitness coaching program by completing this contact form Hope this message serves you and join us next week as we discuss mindset, rest and recovery. Thank you for joining us on The Self-ish Life, now go out and live life intentionally.

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