Role of Exercise for Health

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Levels of physical activity were calculated based on a combination of duration, frequency and intensity (with activities and sports assigned an intensity rating of light, moderate and vigorous) and presented on an ‘activity level scale’. The scale was related to optimum targets from deriving a health benefit and the proportion of the population in different groups falling below these target levels was identified.

This survey provided us with the following two statements; “80% of adults perceive themselves to be physically active” “> 30% of men and 60% of women cannot maintain a walking speed of 3mph when walking up a moderate (5%) slope” These two statements are in conflict, the first suggesting that the majority of adult people believe that they get enough exercise, whilst the second statement contradicts this, suggesting that roughly a third of men and two thirds of women are what we would deem `unfit` despite apparently getting a substantial amount of exercise.

There may be some confusion however surrounding the term `physically active`, different people may have different views and opinions on what is seen as enough exercise to deem `active`. Some of us are of course, naturally more active than others, because our work or general lifestyle permits us to do that. A regular gym user may use the gym 4 or 5 times a week, whilst someone who spends their working time stuck in an office and may only therefore have the opportunity to frequent the gym once or twice a week may have the notion that they are becoming `physically active`, their parameters, therefore their goals are much regulated, so can be satisfied a lot easier.

What these people don’t realise sometimes is that the health requirements for normal people are designed exactly for those types of people – normal, regardless of where you work and the environment that you work in. Government guidelines have been introduced to help define health and provide a template for the amount of exercise required to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The first statement is based on personal opinion, whereas the second is based on fact. A personal opinion can be influenced by self-confidence, image or their sociological background. Those people that feel comfortable within themselves may not feel the need to exercise as often to help promote weight loss, etc. Therefore, people’s ideas of themselves being ‘physically active’ differ.

It is widely recognised that leading an active lifestyle – by that complying to government guidelines (a minimum of 20 minutes moderate intensity exercise per day) – reduces the risk of bad health. Frequent exercise promotes effective and efficient bodily functions, and has been proven to reduce the risk of diseases such as diabetes, obesity and CHD. Exercise must also be coupled with a balanced diet which complements their lifestyle. Exercise is available to us all, but often is not undertaken due to a lack of time in someone’s schedule or simply due to a lack of self-motivation.

Technology has played an integral part in the evolution of our everyday lifestyles over the last 50 years. Computers are now widely accepted as ‘the norm’ with them being found everywhere – from offices to fast food restaurants. Not just in the workplace, but computers are now much more accessible in both the home and schools. More and more work takes place behind a desk with a single computer now taking the place of fulfilling the requirements of several workers.

Computers are effectively replacing people in the workplace. Despite the alleged role of people becoming ‘less important’ in society, the technology available to help us (such as that found in leisure centres, gyms, etc.) is that much more advanced as to make exercise less of a chore. This advancement in sporting technology is made somewhat irrelevant by the ‘couch potato’ lifestyle that so many of us choose to lead. Fifty years ago, very few people had access to televisions, and even those with access had restricted broadcast viewing. As a result, spare time was spent being active. The young were encouraged to play sports in the street and in parks, something which is now considered too dangerous to do.

Society has dictated a change in the way that we all behave. A trip into any town centre on a Friday or Saturday night would reveal the country’s new ‘drinking culture’, so often associated now with watching sports, rather than participating. Resolutions are now more often than not, quick-fix ones. The concentration of fast food restaurants with hastily prepared, often saturated foods contributes to an overall unhealthy diet. Food is now often eaten ‘on the go’, with nutritional home-cooked meals isolated. The busy rush which is found in inner cities has been transferred to normally quiet suburban areas, with it bringing all the stresses and strains associated with a hectic way of life. Whilst people are generally spending more time at home, because of the fast-paced days they have, they use their time to relax, quite often again involving ready-made meals and microwaveable TV dinners.

Both fitness and health can mean different things to different people. One person’s good health may be another’s restricted view on the situation. E.g. would a disabled person be considered healthy even though within their own capacity their body is functioning to its full capability? Equally so, a diabetic person may well be ‘physically fit’, but disease – of which diabetes is one – is construed as a detriment to health. Health and fitness usually come hand in hand – you cannot have one without the other.

A good level of fitness leads to good health, adversely bad health would limit any physical exertions and therefore reduces a person’s fitness levels. Fitness levels deteriorate with age, as can health; therefore older people are often seen as unhealthy. But again, according to their physical limitations, they, in perspective, would out perform many physically active adults, or those who perceive themselves to be (as the quote within the Allied Dunbar National Fitness Survey suggests).

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