New science has been evaluating the biological mechanisms by which physical activity provides health benefits, as well as the physical activity profile (type, intensity, amount) that is associated with enhanced health and quality of life.

The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association have released updated physical activity recommendation for adults and older adults. The recommendations are an update and clarification of the 1995 recommendation on the types and amounts of physical activity needed by healthy adults and older adults to improve and maintain health.

The ACSM and AHA guidelines are specifically for healthy adults aged 18 to 65 years and recommend moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes on five days each week. The new guidelines also provide an alternate recommendation: vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 20 minutes on three days each week.

Not only does science point to the value of physical activity to longevity, but there is also a lot of anecdotal evidence out there. If you see a fit person in his or her 70s or 80s this week, I’ll bet they are pretty active. If not right now, I’d bet they always have been most of their life.

It’s likely that their activity involved good old-fashioned work (labor jobs, weeding by hand, push mowing, scrubbing walls and floors, hand washing, etc.) as opposed to “exercise,” but it was activity. They keep their bodies in motion. “Move it or lose it,” as they say.

Well, this is not only figuratively true, but also literally true in the case of muscle mass. You have to use it to keep it, and you are never too old to build it back up. Building and maintaining some muscle helps our bodies burn more calories, which in turn helps naturally combat the aging process. No, you can’t control getting older, but you can have some control over how well your body ages.

Think of exercise as a “tune-up” for your body. Fitting in some exercise is not as time consuming or difficult as you may think; you just have to try to plan physical movement into your week and make sure you are making the most of your time.

Still have an excuse for not exercising? Try this:

n Quality is often more effective than quantity. For instance, you may find that doing 50 abdominal crunches the wrong way is not half as effective as doing 25 the right way. A personal trainer or a good DVD can walk you through the steps on correct form. This will make the most of your time.

n Don’t talk yourself out of exercising because “you don’t have enough time.” The recommendations are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. If you have 15 minutes at lunchtime to go for a walk, do it. If you have 10 minutes before you get into the shower to try some push-ups, just do it.

n Start slow. Don’t set the bar too high if you haven’t exercised in a while. If you can only do one push-up, no worries. After one week of doing one, you will be doing five before you know it. Then 10, then maybe even 15!

n Invest in a set of hand weights. They are inexpensive and probably last forever. A 15- or 20-minute routine two or three times a week is doable in your own bedroom or living room. You can even do some upper-body exercises sitting down if your legs or knees cannot take stress. Do check in with a personal trainer if you haven’t lifted weights before.

n Take a look at your lifestyle and figure out where you may fit more activity into daily life. You’ve heard it all before, but do you do it? Add daily activity: Take the stairs, park farther away, park in town and walk to several stores, carry your own bags, rake the leaves, sweep the porch, wash your car, shovel your own sidewalk.

n If you need to lose weight, what you eat matters too. If you have not been successful on your own, now may be the time to cry for help. Everyone needs some support now and then. Look for a registered dietitian or nutrition coach for guidance and support.

Always check with your doctor before you begin an exercise program. If you can think it, you can do it. Start slowly, stay positive and keep it fad-free.

Rust is a registered dietitian who has a private practice in Meadville. She is a licensed provider for Real Living Nutrition Services and an instructor for Penn State’s World Campus. Visit her Web site at or e-mail her at to find out more about her personalized nutrition coaching service.

React to this story:


This Week's Circulars