If you’re one of the millions of Americans who have gotten the message to “stand up, move, walk, play, get active,” congratulations. Preliminary results from a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey indicate that 49.2 percent of adults met the activity guidelines for aerobics in 2014, an increase in activity from previous years that has big rewards.
After examining 174 studies that looked at the effect of physical activity on breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, researchers from the University of Washington discovered that when you amp up your activity level, you have a much better chance of dodging those life-altering conditions. The benefits are in addition to how effective consistent physical activity is at protecting your brain, enhancing your sex life and reducing your risk for obesity and all its related woes.
The activity gauge the researchers used to evaluate the benefits of kickin’ up your heels is called MET (metabolic equivalent task), an approximate measure of how many calories are burned during any given activity. The World Health Organization recommends that adults get a minimum of 600 MET minutes weekly — or about 30 minutes of moderate activity daily. Walking at a pace of 2.5 mph has a designated MET of 3. If you walk for 30 minutes, multiply 30 by 3; your MET minutes equal 90.
The researchers also discovered that increasing your MET minutes from 600 to 3,600 a week reduces the risk of diabetes by an additional 19 percent, breast cancer by 14 percent, colon cancer by 21 percent, heart disease by 25 percent and stroke by 26 percent. You don’t have to spend six times as much time working out to hit 3,600 METS; you just have to get smart about it by choosing activities that have higher MET values and adding a bit more time.
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Cardiologists Marc Gillinov, M.D., and Steven Nissen, M.D. (Dr. Mike’s colleagues at the Cleveland Clinic), recommend puff-hard, can’t-talk effort with periods of recovery: Step up your walking pace for four minutes, then take it easy, walking more slowly for three minutes. During your 30- to 60-minute walk, repeat this at least two to three times.
In the study, the disease-risk-reducing benefits of increased activity really were maximized at around 4,200 MET minutes a week, or about 10,000 steps a day, 30 minutes of resistance training and 20 minutes, three times a week, of sweaty activity (cardio). That makes breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke substantially less likely.
So, how can you step it up? Get a pedometer, and measure all your activities — including walking, stair climbing, vacuuming, gardening, running or cycling. Then do the math: You can get a complete MET chart if you google “NCI MET chart” (“NCI” is the National Cancer Institute). Add up your achievements.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.