For the last 25 years, the benefits of exercise have been well-known to mainstream America. Exercise is effective in fighting the effects of aging, improving cardiovascular health, and reducing the rates of cancer, diabetes, obesity and dementia. In addition, exercise helps with many mood disorders including depression and anxiety. So, if it keeps us thinner, younger, happier and healthier, why don’t we do it?! If there was an exercise pill, you’d take it!

The truth is that most western cultures prefer to take a pill rather than do something like exercise for health benefits. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 21 percent of American adults report doing adequate aerobic and strengthening exercises weekly! Only 1 in 5 of us meets the guidelines, while about 66 percent of us are considered overweight or obese. And, the rates of Type 2 diabetes and many other health risks are on the rise. We need to rethink our choices!

Since exercise does not come in a pill, here are some things you should know:

The CDC recommends the following weekly exercise guidelines:

  1. Adults need 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. When performing moderate aerobic activity, it’s difficult to carry on a conversation. During vigorous activity, it’s difficult to talk at all with a very elevated breathing rate.
  2. Adults should perform strength training at least twice each week. Strength training can be done with weights, bands, and body weight or gym equipment. Perform two sets with high repetitions of 12-15 each, exercising all the major muscle groups each week.
  3. Adults benefit from less sitting time. I have mentioned sitting in previous blogs and will mention it again here: Americans sit about 13 hours each day. It’s astounding! Every day and every hour, you need to get up and move.

This is “the what” in terms of exercise. Here’s what I’ve learned from my clients in terms of “the why” behind not exercising. The most common reason is lack of time, followed by simply a lack of interest. Believe me, I understand about the time aspect as well as the lack of interest. Making exercise a daily priority makes sense when you think about your future. Consider it the same as brushing your teeth or eating – it’s a necessity.

Here are a few questions I’d like you to think about:

  • How long would you like to live?
  • What kind of quality of life do you want?
  • Do you expect to be active and well?
  • What would you like to do in your retirement?
  • Do you expect to live in pain and with disability?

As you ponder these questions, consider how daily investments in exercise pay big dividends for your future. I often tell my clients that making time for exercise means choosing health and a better quality of life today and tomorrow.

Take time each day to invest in yourself and your future you. The habits you make today will serve you at every age. If there were an exercise pill, you’d definitely take it. So, take a daily dose of exercise!

If you’re not sure how to safely exercise, consider working with a physical therapist. He or she can prescribe a safe aerobic and strength building program for you. Or consider registering for the Life’s Work Physical Therapy Lifestyle Medicine Program, which includes a full body orthopedic and cardiovascular assessment. We are here to help you succeed.

Now, get exercising.


Sandra Stryker, PT, MPT, COMT, FAAOMPT