Get active and enjoy a healthy life!

“Get active and enjoy a healthy life!”

Get active and enjoy a healthy life!

Foreword

According to the findings of the “Physical Fitness Test for the Community” , most Hong Kong people, regardless of age, lack sufficient physical activity to maintain good health.  Physical activity is greatly beneficial to health.  The higher the level of physical activity, the higher the level of physical fitness.  On the contrary, inadequate physical activity will lead to poorer physical fitness with the growth of age.  Physical activity can lower the risk of suffering from a series of non-communicable diseases, including diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, some types of cancer (e.g. colorectal cancer)  and depression.

To lead a health life, we should build physical activities into our daily life and keep a healthy lifestyle!


We can seize everyday opportunities to do physical activities, e.g. walking, stair climbing or doing housework, or find some time to do exercise by getting up earlier in the morning or making use of lunchtime or the time before dinner.  All these activities help improve fitness, enhance work efficiency and even enrich our life.

Types of Exercises

Despite our busy life, we should make exercise a habit.  There is a wide range of exercise.  For a start, choose the type of exercise that you find interesting and motivating.  Exercise can be classified into three main categories according to their health benefits.

  1. Cardiorespiratory Endurance Exercise
    Health benefits : - improving your blood circulation and cardiopulmonary function
      - helping you to burn calories and keep a healthy body weight
      - reducing the risk of chronic diseases and some types of cancer
      - relieving stress
    Types of exercise : - swimming, hiking, QualiWalk, cycling, jogging, stair climbing, aerobic dance etc.
    Points to note : - choose activities according to your ability and interest
      - exercise for > 5 times per week, 30-60 minutes each with moderate intensity
      - beginners can start with bolus each lasting for > 10 minutes, and then gradually increase intensity and duration according to ability
  2. Muscle strengthening exercise
    Health benefits : - helping you to maintain the correct body posture and improve your body shape
      - reducing chronic pain in muscles and joints
      - increasing the self-protection ability of your body
      - enhancing your sports performance
      - reducing the risk of injuries
    Types of exercise :

    -

    multi-gym exercise, dumbbell lifting, etc.
    Points to note : - increase resistance / weight gradually accordingly to ability
      - perform at appropriate pace; exhale when exerting force and inhale when relaxing
      - train 2-3 muscle groups weekly, low-moderate resistance, 2-4 sets each time (1 set = 10-15 repetitions; have sufficient rest in between)
      - aim at building up endurance follow by power
  3. Stretching exercises
    Health benefits : - stretching and exercising different parts of your body to improve the mobility of joints and relax your muscles
      - serving the purposes of warming up and cooling down before and after exercise as it helps relax tense muscles, improve the mobility of joints and relax the mind
      - enhancing physical ability and sports performance
      - reducing the risk of sport injuries
    Types of exercise :

    -

    static stretching exercise for different parts of the body
    Points to note : - avoid jerky movements or ballistic stretching
      - maintain smooth breathing
      - do stretching exercise 2 to 3 days a week. Beginner can start with static stretching exercises.
      - repeat each set of movements 2 to 4 times, and hold the stretching posture for 10 to 30 seconds
      - keep the stretching muscles relaxed while the part of the body being stretched feels a slight pull

Physical Activity and Calorie Expenditure

Studies show that it is not necessary for exercises to be strenuous as exercises of moderate intensity (which cause mild sweating and slightly higher breathing and heart rates) are enough to bring benefits to our health.
The amount of calories expended during exercise varies with the intensity and duration of the exercise as well as personal factors.

The formula for energy expenditure is as follows:

Body Weight(kg) x Activity Duration(hour) x Metabolic Equivalent (MET)
Example: the energy expended by a 60 kg person for doing brisk walking for 30 minutes is
60kg x 0.5 hour x 4.3METs = 129 kcal

The amount of energy expended in performing the following activities for 30 minutes are as follows:
(The information given above is for reference only.  The actual amount of energy expended is determined by factors such as the intensity and duration of an activity, and the physical fitness, skill level, gender, age and body weight of an individual. )

# Metabolic Equivalent is an indicator for the intensity of physical activities.  Generally speaking, physical activities less than 3 METs are regarded as low-intensity; 3 to 6 METs moderate-intensity; and higher than 6 METs vigorous-intensity.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Are your weight and height in appropriate proportion? To know the answer, calculate your BMI using the following equation:

BMI = Body weight (kg)
(Body height (m))2


For example : the BMI of a man 1.80 m in height and 70 kg in weight is: 70 ÷ (1.8 × 1.8) = 21.6 .
Body Mass Index (BMI)

According to the table below, his BMI falls within the normal range.

(BMI)
(for Asian adults)
Less than 18.5 Underweight
18.5 - 22.9 Normal
23 - 24.9 Overweight
25 - 29.9 Obese
30 or above Severely obese

Calculating BMI is one of the methods to find out whether an adult is underweight or overweight. However, measuring the level of subcutaneous fat is a more accurate method in the following situations:

  1. People who exercise regularly have more muscles and less fat. They may be overweight but healthy.
  2. Some people who are not overweight may have muscle mass that is way below standard and body fat far higher than the normal level. They are considered obese despite having a normal body weight.

Benefits of Exercise

An accumulation of 30 minutes of physical activities of moderate intensity (can be in sessions of at least 10 minutes each) every day persistently, depending on your physical condition, can bring you the following benefits:

  • strengthening your body immunity, reducing the chance of getting sick and enhancing work efficiency

  • burning calories to help you maintain a healthy body weight

  • improving your cardiopulmonary functions and blood circulation

  • strengthening your muscles and reducing the risk of osteoporosis

  • enhancing the mobility and flexibility of joints to lower the risk of injuries and falls

  • reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke and diabetes mellitus, and preventing some types of cancer

  • relieving stress, boosting confidence and improving mental health

  • helping you broaden your social circle by participating more in group exercises
Benefits of Exercise

Rating of Perceived Exertion Method

To ensure safety and an appropriate amount of exercise, the control of exercise intensity is of utmost importance. You should bear in mind that during exercise your breathing rate will increase when you feel a bit strenuous, and so will your pulse rate. These physiological reactions can be taken as the indicators of the intensity of exercise. To choose the right intensity for yourself, please make reference to the "Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE)" below.

Rating of Perceived Exertion Method

RPE may be used to estimate how hard you feel and measure the level of intensity.  RPE between 5 to 7 is recommended for most people, subject to downward adjustment according to individual physical fitness.

Guidelines on the Amount of Physical Activity

Elderly (Aged 65 years or above):

Physical activities for the elderly include ordinary and recreational activities in their daily, family and community life, e.g. daily commuting (walking or stair climbing), performing official duties (for people still working), doing housework, and participating in games, sports competitions and planned exercise.

For all healthy elderly aged 65 or above without any contraindication to physical activity:

  • The elderly should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activities a week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activities a week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activities.
  • Aerobic physical activities should be performed in sessions of at least 10 minutes each.
  • For greater health benefits, the elderly should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activities to 300 minutes a week, or engage in vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activities for 150 minutes a week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activities.
  • The elderly with poor mobility should engage in physical activities that help improve their balance and prevent falls on 3 or more days a week.
  • The elderly should also do muscle strengthening exercise that involves major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
  • For those who cannot do the recommended amounts of physical activity due to health conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.

Adults (Aged 18 to 64 years):

Physical activities for adults of this age group include ordinary and recreational activities at office and in their daily, family and community life, e.g. daily commuting (walking or cycling), performing official duties (i.e. working), doing housework and participating in games, sports competitions and planned exercise.

  • Adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activities a week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activities a week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activities.  
  • Aerobic physical activity should be performed in sessions of at least 10 minutes each.
  • For greater health benefits, they should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activities to 300 minutes a week, or engage in vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activities for 150 minutes a week, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activities.
  • Adults should also do muscle strengthening exercise that involves major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.

Children and the Youth (aged 5 to 17 years):

Physical activities for children and the youth include participating in games and sports competitions, leisure activities, physical education lessons and planned exercise at school and in their family and community life, as well as daily commuting (e.g. walking and cycling).

  • Children and the youth should engage in at least 60 minutes (cumulative) of physical activities of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activities a day.
  • Spending more than 60 minutes a day on doing physical activities will bring about greater health benefits.
  • Most of the daily physical activities should be aerobic in nature.  Moreover, physical activities of vigorous intensity should be planned for at least 3 times a week, in which bone and muscle strengthening exercises should be incorporated.

(Reference: Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2010.)

What are moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity physical activities?

Moderate-intensity physical activities are those which will slightly speed up breathing and heart rates, and cause mild sweating but not so intense as to cause fatigue, while vigorous-intensity physical activities are those which will greatly speed up breathing and heart rates, and cause profuse sweating and fatigue.

More specifically, physical activities of 3 to 6 METs (e.g. walking and social dance) are of moderate-intensity, whereas those of higher than 6 METs (e.g. running and cycling) are of vigorous-intensity.

Points to Note

You should take heed of the following when doing exercise:

  • Choose an appropriate place for doing exercise.
  • Choose the right exercise that suits your physical ability and strength.
  • Wear appropriate sportswear and sports shoes.
  • Proceed progressively and start with simple exercise.
  • Do sufficient warm-up and cool-down before and after exercise.
  • Do not hold your breath during exercise.
  • If feeling unwell during exercise, slow down or take a break.  If the condition does not improve, consult medical practitioner or other medical professionals immediately.

Acknowledgement :
Physical Fitness Association of Hong Kong, China

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