Health benefits of physical activity: A recent update explaining how much and what kind is most effective.

   A recent review clearly explains the health benefits of physical activity and exercise; virtually everyone can benefit from becoming more physically active. Most international guidelines recommend a goal of 150 min/week of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity. Many agencies have translated these recommendations to indicate that this volume of activity is the minimum required for health benefits. However, recent evidence has challenged this threshold-centered messaging as it may not be evidence-based and may create an unnecessary barrier to those who might benefit greatly from simply becoming more active. This review summarizes recent information that has examined the relationship between physical activity and health status.

The Findings

Assessment of a large body of data (based largely on epidemiological studies consisting of large cohorts) have demonstrated a dose–response relationship between physical activity and premature mortality and the primary and secondary prevention of several chronic medical conditions. The relationships between physical activity and health outcomes are generally curvilinear such that marked health benefits are observed with relatively minor volumes of physical activity. These findings challenge current threshold-based messaging related to physical activity and health. They emphasize that clinically relevant health benefits can be accrued by simply becoming more physically active. This information is summarized nicely on the following Video:

Conclusion: There’s hope for us all!



For many years we have known that exercise is important in increasing life expectancy for everyone, and it also forms a component of rehabilitation programs that can reduce mortality by about 20% in those who have suffered from various heart ailments. But individuals often do not adhere to the recommended amount of exercise. Adjusting music to personal tastes and, above all, tempo-pace, could be the key to success, write Canadian researchers recently in the journal, Sports Medicine.

We’re all involved in—or at least witness to—group exercise programs that add music to get “the juices flowing.” It has also long been known that music enhances adherence to regular training and performance in competitive athletes, even when performed individually.

The study referred to above, which was carried out by the Toronto Health Network, included 34 patients who participated in a cardiac rehab program. One third of the study subjects did not listen to music while exercising; the other two thirds listened to personalized playlists. Half of this group was unaware of the fact that, by using a special device, the rhythm of their music had been synchronized to their exercising tempo.

People who listened to tempo-pace synchronized music did an average of 70% more exercise than patients who did not listen to music. They also had the greatest increase in physical fitness than the other two groups.

“The music tempo-pace synchronization helps cue the person to take their next step or stride and helps regulate, maintain and reinforce their prescribed exercise plan”, explained study author David Alter. “If a 65 year-old man would sustain the average increase in exercise reached in this study, this would equal a life expectancy increase of 2.5 years”, he emphasized.

Exercise is generally more effective when carried out in group settings. As I have noted previously (5/15/15), group walking is more apt to achieve greater adherence rates and yield better fitness levels, even without the addition of music.

While this combined music/group activity cited above pertains to those individuals who have previously suffered some type of heart problem, it should extend to the population at large. Maybe those fitness clubs that have used the combination of music and exercise knew something important to health all along! Even the individual at home can take advantage of this combination, for there are various TV programs that combine music with group workouts, allowing one to regularly follow along in his/her own living room!






Exercise in general has been convincingly associated with increased longevity and better health. Almost all studies show that even light or moderate exercise produces better physical and mental outcomes.

Now this idea has been provided with even more support: Regular brisk walking (i.e., walking at a pace of 3-5 miles per hour) is a convenient form of exercise. Evidence indicates that joining a walking group not only is a cost-effective way to increase physical activity but it also improves adherence to walking. To assess the health benefits of outdoor group walking, researchers# conducted a pooled analysis of 42 studies from 14 countries involving 1843 participants (mean age, 54, with 74% women). The time spent walking ranged from 20 to 460 minutes weekly, and the walking durations ranged from 3 weeks to 1 year. The average adherence to these programs was 75%.

After completion of the study, participants who adhered to the program showed significant improvements in blood pressure, slowing of resting heart rate (a favorable sign), reduction of percent body fat and body weight, reduced cholesterol, improved depression scores with better quality of life, and increased measures of endurance. Importantly, no adverse effects were reported.

From this information, the conclusions are obvious: Participating in outdoor walking groups has many health benefits. A common challenge for individuals is how to initiate and sustain an exercise program of any type. Joining a walking group is easy, convenient, and safe, and, for obvious reasons that relate to social and supportive features, it achieves a high participant adherence. The study also underlines the fact that benefits accrue from modest regular exercise that need not be high-intensity or all-consuming. As suggested by the group’s makeup, women seem to be especially good participants for this type of program. In order to maintain consistency during cold weather months in northern climates, this type of program could be easily moved to indoor venues such as shopping malls and the like.

The group interaction involved in this activity carries other potential benefits, for many studies have shown that social activity alone prolongs life expectancy in much the same way that married couples also seem to live longer than those who are isolated or alone.

# Hanson S and Jones A. Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med 2015; (e-pub).’2014-094157.



Regular exercise may alter how a person experiences pain, according to a recent study. For some time, scientists have known that strenuous exercise briefly and acutely dulls pain. As muscles begin to ache during a prolonged workout, the body typically releases natural opiates, called endorphins, and other substances that can slightly dampen the discomfort. This effect usually begins during the workout and lingers for perhaps 20 or 30 minutes afterward.

But whether exercise alters the body’s response to pain over the long term and, more pressing for most of us, whether such changes will develop if people engage in moderate, less draining workouts, have been unclear.

So for the new study, which was published recently in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, (Aug, 2014) researchers recruited 12 young and healthy but inactive adults who expressed interest in exercising, and another 12 who were similar in age and activity levels but preferred not to exercise. They then brought all of them into the lab to determine how they reacted to pain. They measured pain thresholds by using both a direct pressure device and an inflatable cuff that, applied to a person’s arm, exerting increasing pressure against the skin. The volunteers were told to say “stop” when that pressure became painful.

Then the volunteers who had said that they would like to begin exercising did so, undertaking a program of moderate stationary bicycling for 30 minutes, three times a week, for six weeks. In the process, the volunteers became more fit, as measured by their measured aerobic capacities. The other volunteers (“control group”) continued with their lives as they had before the study began.

After six weeks, both groups of volunteers returned to the lab for retesting. As expected, the volunteers in the control group showed no changes in their responses to pain. But the volunteers in the exercise group displayed a substantially greater ability to withstand pain. Although they felt pain at similar threshold levels, their tolerance had risen. Those volunteers whose fitness had increased the most also showed the greatest increase in pain tolerance.

These results suggest that the participants who exercised did not find the pain as threatening after exercise training, although discomfort was still experienced, an idea that fits with entrenched, anecdotal beliefs about the physical fortitude of athletes.

Since pain tolerances were tested using people’s arms and the exercisers trained primarily their legs, this suggests that something occurring in the brain was probably responsible for the change in pain thresholds, a really intriguing idea.

The study’s implications are considerable and indicate that the longer we stick with an exercise program, the less physical pain of any type we will feel. The brain probably begins to accept that we are tougher than it had thought, and it allows us to continue longer, although the pain itself is still present.

This study also could be applicable to people struggling with chronic pain of all types, such as those suffering from “fibromyalgia”, a poorly defined condition characterized by widespread muscular pains. Although anyone suffering from chronic pains of any cause should consult a doctor before starting to exercise, the experiment suggests that at least moderate amounts of exercise can change people’s perception of their pain and help them to be able to better perform activities of daily living. When coupled with the other multiple health advantages of exercise, the implications should be obvious to all of us!