As a clinical question, I always try to get an idea of how much my patients are moving, whether it’s in formal exercise program, their job, or hobbies. I was surprised to find that researchers who were looking at this same question found that their subjects were far below recommended levels.
They had found that generally, most of us get less than physical activity than recommended, and as we get older, we move less and less. One study group found that only 42% of children and 8% of adolescents attained the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Among adults, only 5% attained 30 minutes of physical activity per day! This wasn’t just looking at a few people, either. The studies included nearly 12,000 participants! (Troiano, 2008.)
The less we move, the less tolerant to movement we become in a process called Deconditioning Syndrome. Some of the major changes that occur when we move less are decreased range of motion, increased joint pain and stiffness, decreased muscular strength and endurance, decreased metabolism, and increased risk of strains, sprains, and muscle spasms. All of these things can provoke symptoms that would discourage us from physical activity even more, and this is a very big risk factor in developing chronic pain syndromes such as lower back pain. (Carpenter, 1999.)
Wanna turn it around in 2012? First of all, honestly determine where you are in your physical activity levels. Are you above or below the recommended guidelines? Children and adolescents need 60 minutes of vigorous activity per day, and adults require a minimum of 2 hours and 30 minutes per week plus full-body strength training 2 times a week. (editorial… If you want to feel like a kid, play like a kid! Aim for 60 minutes of physical activity a day!)
Once you do that, figure out how you’d like to meet your minimum requirements, and what limitations you may have to doing so. Make it fun, so you’ll be more likely to do it. Next, find other people out doing it and join them! One of the ways I keep myself on my bike is by training with my team. Running, walking groups, etc. often have plenty of ways to keep you accountable to the activity with group events and buddies.
Good luck getting yourself moving in 2012! More details on getting started can be found on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website.
Troiano RP, et al. Physical Activity in the United States Measured by Accelerometer. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2008; 40(1):181-188.
Carpenter, Nelson. Low back strengthening for the prevention and treatment of low back pain. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1999; 31(1):18-24.