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Reaping the Benefits of Physical Activity

5/21/2013

For many people life is busy with work and family obligations, and finding the time and motivation to exercise can be difficult. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends incorporating 150 minutes of physical activity per week for adults, and 60 minutes a day for children. This may seem like a lot of time, but it is time well spent and can add years to a person’s life.

Regular exercise and physical activity keeps the body healthy and improves endurance, lung and heart function, and blood circulation. It strengthens bones and muscles, improves mental health and mood, and reduces stress.

One benefit commonly associated with regular exercise is weight control. According to CDC one third of American adults and 17 percent of children are obese. Exercising regularly reduces a person’s chances of developing serious health conditions like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndromes that are linked to obesity.

Devoting 150 minutes a week to exercise might seem overwhelming, but starting off slowly is OK, especially when starting a regular exercise program. CDC suggests dividing the time into 10 or 15 minute aerobic workouts. For example: Take a brisk 15 minute walk, twice a day, five days a week. It’s also important to include muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups. As long as the activity is of moderate intensity it counts towards the suggested guidelines for regular exercise. Establishing a routine incorporating exercise into daily life is essential, and any major changes in diet and exercise should be discussed with a primary care provider.

Losing weight is healthy for many reasons. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), Aim for a Healthy Weight campaign highlights the difference loosing even a small amount of weight can make. According to the NIH losing 5 to 10 percent of body weight can reduce a person’s chances for developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes or having a stroke. It can decrease stress on the knees, hips and lower back as well as improve sleep apnea. The NIH website has helpful tools for losing and maintaining a lower weight, including a body mass index calculator, menu planner and tips for staying active. For more information go to www.hhs.gov/onepoundatatime.

Exercising is a good way to keep healthy. Another important way to stay healthy is by staying up to date on all recommended immunizations and health screenings. TRICARE helps beneficiaries stay healthy with access to cost-free preventive care including immunizations, cancer screenings, and blood pressure and cholesterol screenings. All TRICARE beneficiaries are covered for preventive services. For more information about TRICARE’s covered preventive care services go to www.tricare.mil/livewell/preventive.

It is never too late to begin a regular exercise routine. Some benefits can be felt and noticed almost immediately including increased energy levels, more restful sleep and reduced stress. For more information about physical fitness and healthy living go to www.tricare.mil/livewell.

Last Updated 4/15/2014