You’re probably aware that regularly moving your body can positively impact your health. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend 150 minutes of exercise per week or a little over 20 minutes per day. Meeting this target can help:
- Decrease blood sugar
- Lower triglycerides (blood fats)
- Increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol
- Reduce blood pressure
- Shrink waist circumference or inches around the waist
Physical activity is one of the six pillars of lifestyle medicine, which also includes:
- Risky behavior reduction
- Social connections
Think of these pillars as interconnected gears. Simply moving the physical activity gear can shift all of the others in ways that protect your health. Read on to learn about why a focus on physical activity can propel your overall lifestyle medicine journey.
Exercise is linked with healthier eating habits. Research shows that 30 minutes of physical activity per day for 15 weeks can help reduce a preference for sweet, salty, and fatty foods.
Engaging in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, resistance training, or yoga has been shown to improve sleep quality. For optimal sleep just be sure to exercise at least one to two hours before bedtime.
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, as little as 5 minutes of aerobic activity per day can help to alleviate stress. Exercise releases hormones called endorphins, which help block pain and trigger the production of the “feel good” chemical dopamine.
Risky Behavior Reduction
Physical activity has been shown to reduce cigarette smoking. This is because aerobic exercise (such as walking, swimming, running, dancing, cycling, and boxing) helps curb nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms during and up to 50 minutes after a workout.
Bottom line: If you feel overwhelmed about how to change your lifestyle, simply start with regular physical activity. The beauty of lifestyle medicine is that a change in one pilar can have a domino effect on every aspect of your health!