Introduction to Activity

LAST UPDATED: March 04, 2020

Activity—fitness and health

The time spent sitting and/or inactive negatively affects performance. Although exercise and physical training play a role in physical activity, your overall level of physical activity also includes the rest of your day. If you exercise for two hours and then spend eight hours sitting behind a desk, you have low physical activity and live a sedentary lifestyle. Using the Performance Triad Physical Activity Targets and fitness and exercise information on this site will help you perform your best!  

Let's start with your three Activity Targets: 

  1. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate or higher intensity aerobic exercise per week.
  2. Do 2–3 sessions of total body resistance training per week.
  3. Get at least 10,000 steps per day.

Are those targets too easy?  Then challenge yourself with the following Activity Plus Targets 

Challenge yourself with Activity Plus Targets:
  1. Take 10,000 steps + 5,000 additional steps for a daily total of 15,000 per day
  2. Do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week + 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise
  3. Do 2–3 sessions of total body strength training per week + 1 day or more of agility training
Prolonged sitting increases your risk of an early death. Sitting a lot increases your risk of blood clots, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity. Believe it or not, your daily workout does not protect you from the problems of prolonged sitting. Even people who are very fit have a higher risk of illness if they spend a long time sitting down every day. Fitness alone isn't enough! The key is moving throughout the day! Moving during the day, in addition to physical training, is necessary to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and other health conditions. If you can max your physical training test but still spend over 6 hours per day sitting down, then you are still at risk! Moving more can be as simple as taking a walk break, standing up to stretch, taking the long route to the restroom at work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking your car farther away from your building. Walking 10–15 minutes every hour increases blood flow, burns calories and helps to maintain a healthy weight. Remember that all physical activity, not just walking or running, counts for steps. Numerous charts are available that can convert different activities into steps.

Did you know that a 1-mile walk is about 2,000 steps?

On average, Americans take about 5,000-6000 steps per day; however, researchers recommend taking at least 10,000 steps (about 5 miles) per day for a good health. Researchers suggest closer to 15,000 steps per day if you are trying to lose weight. Children need more—boys between the ages of 6–12 years need 15,000 steps per day, and girls in the same age range need 12,000 steps per day. If you take a 2.5-mile walk every night on top of your regular activity, you probably are close to or above the 10,000 step target. For adults (and for most Soldiers), the 10,000 steps daily is a good baseline goal. For those already reaching that, we have a plus goal of 15,000!

But I'm a Soldier… I get 10,000 steps before breakfast!

Great job! Soldiers in many units do required physical training—they have an easy time getting to 10,000 a day. However, the goal is to move throughout the day! If you get more than 10,000 steps per day, it's time to set your goal higher! You wouldn't do just the minimum and quit, right? Set your sights on the Plus Goal of 15,000 or even take things a step higher to 20,000 per day if you can make it!

For example, if you run 2 miles in the morning (about 4,000 steps) shoot for the Plus Goal of 15,000 steps that day. Unit and group challenges can keep you motivated to continue exceeding the standard! Keep track of your fitness level! Your phone or a Personal Wearable Fitness Device (PWFD) can provide accountability for individuals who need an accountability factor. These individuals will willingly wear a PWFD and use it to the fullest potential. AR 670-1 governs the wear of PWFDs while in uniform; Soldiers should adhere to commanders' policies concerning wear of PWFDs in spaces where classified material is located.

The mind-body connection — Exercise's effect on the brain

Exercise is great for the brain, not just the body!

Prolonged sitting reduces blood flow to the brain. Even a 20 minute walk improves blood flow to brain areas for movement, thinking and learning.

Did you know that exercise improves cognition, memory, attention, decision-making, perception and motivation?

  • Exercise causes your brain to release chemicals that build memory and reinforce learning.
  • People who exercise regularly have better short-term memory and mental reaction time.
  • Immediately after exercise, your memory and mental responses improve.
  • 1–3 hours after exercise, you are able to make faster and more accurate decisions.
  • Those who exercise regularly remember more facts and can recall them more easily.
  • Strength training improves your mental focus and concentration ability.

Did you know that exercise helps battle depression and anxiety?

  • Researchers have discovered that regular aerobic exercise be as effective as some medications to prevent and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in some individuals.
  • Regular exercise may reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression by 75%.
  • Exercise helps release tension, helping you cope with stress.
  • Regular workouts help you feel positive.
  • Exercising regularly helps your body tune itself for physical stress and has been proven to improve pain tolerance.
  • When you exercise regularly, you feel better and your fitness accomplishments boost your confidence.

From a basic science perspective, these are some of the things that happen with exercise:

  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is released. BDNF is like fertilizer for the brain; it grows new brain cells and repairs injured brain cells.
  • Hormones combine with BDNF to regulate mood, and provide mental clarity.
  • With regular exercise, the hippocampus (responsible for learning and memory) grows in size.
  • Endorphins are released, which dulls the sensation of pain.
  • Dopamine is released, which improve motivation, focus, and learning.
  • Serotonin is released, which enhances mood.

Blood flow to the brain increases, delivering more oxygen and nutrition and improving waste removal.

How does physical activity improve health?

  • Lowers risk and helps manage some chronic diseases and conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and cancer (e.g., breast, colon)
  • Aids in weight loss and prevents weight gain
  • Strengthens bones, muscles, and joints
  • Can manage stress and may reduce depression

Try to avoid sitting for long periods. Prolonged sitting increases the risk of blood clots, obesity, and heart disease. Move at least 10 minutes every hour.

Don't let injuries or other conditions slow you down. You can still receive health benefits from physical activity. Being physically active can help you improve your mobility, coordination, and flexibility. Talk to your healthcare provider about what activities suit you best.

Lack of sleep reduces your desire and motivation to exercise regularly and to make healthy eating decisions. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are having trouble sleeping (falling asleep or staying asleep) or if you are always feeling fatigued or tired.

How can I build activity into my day?

You can make small changes in your daily routine to increase your physical activity. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests the following:

  • Take the stairs whenever you can
  • Walk to a co-worker's desk instead of emailing or calling
  • Pick up a new active hobby like cycling
  • Stand or move around when talking on your cell phone

Divide it up your way. 150 minutes is:

  • 2 hours and 30 minutes per week
  • 30 minutes a day for 5 days
  • 10 minutes of activity 3 times a day for 5 days

Pick activities you enjoy.

Moderate-intensity activities include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Doubles tennis
  • Golf
  • Leisure biking

Invite family and friends to join you.

  • Take a fitness class
  • Join a recreation league
  • Sign up for a 5K run/walk
  • Start a walking group in your neighborhood

Save time by bumping up the intensity.

Do 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activities split between 2 days.

  • Running
  • Swimming laps
  • Basketball
  • Hiking uphill

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