Why We R.U.N: The Importance of Physical Activity

By William Burgos, MS, CSCS, CPT
Professor, Kaplan University School of Health Sciences

Physical activity is rising in significance, especially with the news that physical inactivity is a major contributor to the heart-related causes of death in America.1 In order to help reduce the number of physically inactive Americans, it is vital to promote, educate, and encourage the health-related benefits of physical activity.

As more and more Americans seek ways to live a healthier lifestyle, it is essential to start moving in order to help enhance quality of life, health, and longevity. In the process of making these enhancements, some people have a tendency to consider physical activity as exercise. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), physical activity is “anything that gets your body moving,”2 such as walking, washing your car by hand, yardwork, or brushing your teeth, whereas exercise is more planned and structured. For instance, an exercise plan would consist of a premeditated 30 minutes a day, three days a week, absolutely dedicated to exercise rather than a haphazard workout schedule. At a minimum, the CDC recommends that we must perform some type of moderately intense activity in order to gain a health benefit.3 Cardiologist Dr. Jure Mirat that “physical activity has a beneficial impact on the cardiovascular system, both directly by improving endothelial function and indirectly by normalizing risk factors of atherosclerosis, such as dyslipidemia, high blood pressure, obesity and by positive effects on coagulation mechanism.”4

The CDC recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise every week. Since time is a factor for everyone, the CDC notes that “[a minimum of] 150 minutes each week sounds like a lot of time, but you don’t have to do it all at once. Not only is it best to spread your activity out during the week, but you can break it up into smaller chunks of time during the day. As long as you’re doing your activity at a moderate or vigorous effort for at least 10 minutes at a time.”5 In other words, physical activity for 10 minutes in the morning, followed by 10 minutes in the afternoon and 10 minutes in the evening, totals to 30 minutes of physical activity for the day, which can influence the enhancement of physical health as well as psychological well-being. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines.

Though the prevalence of physical activity among adults in the United States has recently risen, it is not necessarily due to the claims of health-related benefits but more to the popularity of television shows such as The Biggest Loser and Dancing with the Stars, as well as the current trends in exercise and fitness. However, it is important to also point out that many health professionals promote the importance of participating in physical activity. Physical activity is an attribute of the health-related components of physical fitness, which consist of cardiorespiratory fitness (CR), flexibility (F), muscular strength (MS), endurance (ME), and lastly, body composition (BC).

The components of physical fitness can seem complicated to individuals when starting an exercise program, specifically “about the amount and type of physical activity recommended for health, fitness, and weight control.”6 To help ease some confusion, it is useful to first identify CR as the most significant component in health-related fitness, simply because it helps condition and strengthen the major organ in our body―the heart. CR also helps regulate body composition by burning body fat, which translates into maintaining lean muscle mass and, as a result, maintaining or reaching an ideal body weight.7

In order to simplify all of this, I use the acronym R.U.N. with my clients, with each letter representing the steps that could help in designing a successful CR program. The “R” stands for “re-evaluate yourself.” In order to make the program enjoyable while also meeting physical activity needs, we need to first understand where we are mentally. For instance, the brain dictates where we are on the continuum of motivational readiness, which gives us an idea of how to approach our workout regimen. The right state of mind can also result in quality repetitions throughout each exercise or conditioning program.

The “U” stands for “understand your training heart rate.” Determining your training heart rate can provide variety in your aerobic workout, as well as dictate the intensity of the exercise. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, “the heart rate is used as a guide to set exercise intensity because of the relatively linear relationship between heart rate and VO2 [maximal oxygen uptake].”8 Maximal oxygen uptake is the amount of oxygen needed for the working muscle during maximal capacity.9  As a result, the more you understand the value of identifying your training heart rate, the more you will be able to efficiently accomplish a given task. For more information on how to calculate your training heart rate, visit The American College of Sports Medicine website at www.acsm.org and click on the link under the “Inform” section in order to locate the brochure with the desired information.

Finally, the letter “N” signifies “never do the same routine,” which indicates the need for some variety in your workout to eliminate boredom. There are plenty of great exercises that can be implemented in a training program.
Remember the three simple R.U.N. steps coupled with a regular physical activity schedule and the commitment to make a difference can easily translate into a healthier lifestyle.


References

1 Jure Mirat, “Physical Activity in the Prevention and Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease,” Acta Med Croatica 61, no. 1 (2007): 63-7.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Physical Activity for Everyone,” http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/adults.html (Accessed December 12, 2008).
3 Ibid.
4 Mirat.
5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
6 T.E. Howley and D.B. Franks, Fitness Professional’s Handbook, 5th Ed.  (Illinois: Human Kinetics, 2003).
7 L. Armstrong, et al., ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 7th Ed.(New York: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006).
8 Armstrong, et al.
9 Howley.


William Burgos, MS, CSCS, CPT

William Burgos has been a professor with Kaplan University’s School of Health Sciences since December 2007.  Mr. Burgos has a Master of Science in Exercise Science from Austin Peay State University where he also obtained his undergraduate degree in Exercise Science.  In addition, he has his certification as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), as well as his certification as a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Mr. Burgos currently works with the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball club as a certified strength and conditioning coach.  In this position, he helps coordinate and maintain strength, flexibility, nutrition, and conditioning programs in order to enhance the quality and longevity of life and to optimize performance.  In addition to working with professional athletes, Mr. Burgos has had the opportunity to be a member of a corporate wellness steering committee where he helps contribute to the corporate wellness program.

Kaplan Higher Education Corporation is a division of Kaplan, Inc., a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company.

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