In the New Food Guide Pyramid, exercise and weight control make up the base of this pyramid (see diagram) meaning that a good balanced diet is necessary but not sufficient for good health. It also contradicts an over-reliance on refined carbohydrates (e.g., pan loaf) and shows the more healthy options in all food categories.
One layer up from exercise and weight control is an emphasis on whole-grain high fibre carbohydrates and healthy fats (like vegetable oils, avocados and nuts).
- Lots of fruit and vegetables is optimal in addition to moderate amounts of legumes (beans, peas, lentils etc.).
- Fish, poultry and eggs are important sources of protein but red meat (once or twice a week), excessive butter, refined starches (cakes, pastries) and sugars (sweets, ice-cream, high sugar drinks) should be well restricted.
In adults and older adults a weekly routine total of at least;
- 150 minutes of moderate or
- 75 minutes of high intensity exercise confers proven health benefits including significant protection from all-cause mortality.
There is strong evidence to demonstrate the protective effect of physical activity on a range of many chronic conditions including coronary heart disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes, mental health problems and social isolation. In children and young people, regular physical activity is associated with improved learning and attainment, better mental health and cardiovascular fitness, also contributing to healthy weight status.
The more time spent being physically active, the greater the health benefits and we now know that even relatively small increases in physical activity can contribute to improved health and quality of life. There are now guidelines on being active during pregnancy, and after giving birth, and for disabled adults.
These are some of the latest findings from UK’s 4 Chief medical Officer’s Physical Activity Guidelines.
- In childhood, strengthening activities help to develop muscle strength and build healthy bone.
- In adults and OLDER adults they help to maintain strength and delay the natural decline in muscle mass and bone density which occurs from around 50 years of age.
- The guidelines also reinforce the importance of these types of activities for all age groups and highlight the additional benefit of balance and flexibility exercises (e.g. Yoga, Bowls, Dance) for OLDER adults.
- The report highlights the risks of inactivity and that prolonged sitting is harmful and is associated with all-cause mortality, and cancer risk and survivorship.
This report also recognises emerging evidence for health benefits of performing very vigorous intensity activity performed in short bouts interspersed with periods of rest or recovery (high intensity interval exercise, HIIT).
This exercise has clinically meaningful effects on fitness, body weight and insulin resistance and can be as or more effective than Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity (MVPA).An excellent example of HIIT exercise would be a Niamh Hughes spinning class.
There are guidelines for each age group, namely; Under-5s and babies, Children and young people (5-18 years), Adults (19-64 years), older adults (65+), both Pregnant and Postpartum women and Disabled people. There is information and guidance on appropriate length and intensity of exercise for all these groups. We have in the pharmacy advisory charts on food choices and physical exercise algorithm charts for all the age groups as well. Please ask us for your own copies. These are free of charge.
Some last thoughts;
- Some exercise is good, more is better.
- Prolonged sitting is harmful. No matter what age, getting up to stretch and flex the legs and arms is highly beneficial and counts as exercise.
- Exercise activity comes in many forms including carrying heavy shopping bags, climbing the stairs, walking/cycling to work, gardening (hoeing, digging, bending etc.), running, dancing, weights etc.
- Physical activity improves mental health and importantly helps reduce social isolation especially as part of a group or club. Getting such people to “come out of their house or flat’ to take part in some exercise activity, e.g. a park run or walk would be a major step forward for them.