Mention "physical activity" or "exercise" and the images that usually come to mind are gym workouts such as walking on a treadmill, sports such as basketball, or recreational activities such as inline skating.
So some people think that if they can't go to the health club, participate in an outdoor sport, or exercise to a video at home, they just can't fit physical activity into their lives.
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us to free our minds and think outside of the fitness box.
Several years ago, the government broadened its definition of physical activity to include activities that aren't traditionally thought of as exercise. Then, the government conducted a state-by-state survey using the expanded definition in 2001 to find out how many Americans were meeting the recommendations. Not surprisingly, they found that more met the recommendations that year than in 2000, when broadened definition was not yet used. For example, about 28.8 percent of Californians were getting at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week in 2000, but that number jumped to 45.8 percent in 2001.
Still, as a nation, we have a long way to go. Only 45 percent of Americans meet the physical-activity recommendations.
Moderate activity means activity that burns 3.5-7 calories per minute. You also can use what exercise scientists call your perceived rate of exertion to gauge what is moderate. Keep in mind that moderate is relative. What may be vigorous for you may be moderate for another person.
Here are some activities we can try to add more exercise to our lives. Some of these might not fall under what we consider a typical workout, but they do qualify as moderate-intensity exercise, according to the CDC:
Walking to class, work or the store, or walking the dog. Doing light calisthenics. Dancing (ballroom, line, square, modern or ballet). Playing softball. Throwing a flying disc. Treading water. Playing an instrument in a marching band. Raking the lawn. Weeding while standing or bending. Pushing a power lawn mower or tiller. Scrubbing the floor while on hands and knees or doing other household tasks. Walking while carrying a child weighing less than 50 pounds. Cleaning gutters, refinishing furniture and doing other home improvement tasks. Hand waxing or washing a car. You can combine various activities to complete 30 minutes-one hour of exercise every day. You also have the option of doing vigorous activities for 20 minutes or more at least three days a week.
Remember that this is the minimum requirement for general health.
For a comprehensive list of moderate and vigorous activities, go to www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/physical/recommendations/index.htm and click on General Physical Activities Defined by Level of Intensity.
(Lisa Liddane is a health and fitness writer for The Orange County Register and an American Council on Exercise-certified group fitness instructor. Write to her at the Register, P.O. Box 11626, Santa Ana, Calif. 92711 or send e-mail to email@example.com.)
(c) 2003, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.). Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service.