Exercise Guidelines: One Trial Does Not Fit All

For the Active and Not-So-Active

Based on the general body of knowledge related to exercise, though, the intent of the aerobic guidelines for adults is to ensure that people who follow them generally achieve 500 to 1,000 MET-minutes or more. The guidelines encourage people to do higher amounts of activity, as higher amounts have greater health benefits (depending on which benefit you're thinking of). Also, people with higher levels of fitness generally can only achieve this level of fitness by doing higher amounts of activity, and thus have already chosen to do more activity.

What about the rest of us, though? Many adults have low levels of fitness, particularly older adults and many people I know with type 2 diabetes, for whom activities in the range of 3.0 to 5.9 METs are either relatively vigorous, or physiologically impossible. For older adults with low levels of fitness, the level of effort should be guided by relative intensity—that is, doing what feels moderate to them. Inactive adults should not do relatively vigorous-intensity activity when they start to increase their activity level. In other words, the guidelines state that it is not intended or appropriate for people with low levels of fitness to meet a moderate-intensity guideline by routinely doing relatively vigorous-intensity activity.

The Bottom Line

Key guidelines state that

  • all adults should avoid inactivity
  • some physical activity is better than none
  • adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits even if you have disabilities
  • the benefits of physical activity far outweigh the possibility of drawbacks.

The studies actually fully support all of those assertions. New studies are apparently under way to test the appropriateness of the federal guidelines specifically when it comes to optimizing fitness levels and preventing or controlling diseases. While we're waiting for more definitive research to be published, rest assured that being physically active on a regular basis—regardless of what you do—is some of the best medicine for diabetes and your overall health that you could possibly choose to "take" on a daily basis. So, stop reading this column and go do something active!

If you need tips for getting started on an exercise program, check out my book entitled "The 7 Step Diabetes Fitness Plan." For people with any type of diabetes who are already more active, you will benefit more from "Diabetic Athlete's Handbook." For other tips on exercise, fitness, diabetes, nutrition, and more, please visit my Web site and exercise blog at www.shericolberg.com.

Read Sheri's bio here.

Read more of Sheri Colberg-Och's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

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Last Modified Date: June 27, 2013

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