Pacific Family Health Journal: Article 3 – Exercise: How Much for Health Benefits?

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Pacific Family Health Journal with Dr Rodney Itaki

How much exercise is required for health benefits?

I have been asked this question every time I advise a patient, friend or family member: “doc, so much exercise should I do?” 

Based on current medical research the American Heart Association and most other professional medical societies around the world recommend 40-45 minutes of continuous activity up to a point where you feel slightly breathless. And this must be done at least 3-4 days a week. In other words, you must be active for at least 45 minutes most days of the week. 

I see most people wanting to start jogging, even though they have never done any form of running activity (perhaps in high school) and after 1 to 2 weeks, they have given up because it’s too much hard work. Some take up gym sessions and when it’s get too expensive, the sessions stop. Why not just starting walking? I am talking about fast walking, not your afternoon leisure walk to enjoy the sunset. 

If you do not like jogging or running or walking, I usually recommend doing any activity around the house most times of the day (instead of sitting around chewing betel nut and telling stories). This could be cleaning in and around the house, flower gardening, washing the car or any other chores, as long as you are moving.

When discussing life-style change to prevent life-style diseases such as diabetes, heart attack, stroke etc, with my patients, I usually point out that if people in rural PNG have access to quality primary health care, they would have a better life expectancy than people in the urban areas. This is because preventable infectious diseases are the main killers in rural PNG where life-style diseases are non-existent. But in the urban areas, most middle class Papua New Guineas are dying from life style diseases.

So simply put, if you do not know what type of exercise to do or do not know where or how to start, I suggest live a physically active life, much like rural people in PNG.

Dr Rodney Itaki, MBBS, BMedSci

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