There are many benefits of regular physical activity; however, people often have many excuses for not being more physically active. The following is information from the American Academy of Pediatrics encouraging families to consider all the benefits of being physically active and how to overcome some obstacles. Each family member can take a step toward becoming more physically active by filling out the physical activity plan.

Benefits of being physically active

Being physically active is one way you can

  • Have fun—this is important!
  • Spend time with friends.
  • Improve your body image.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Increase energy levels.
  • Improve your self-image.
  • Feel stronger.
  • Increase your endurance for sport or hobbies.
  • Get muscles or definition.
  • Decrease stress.

Overcoming common obstacles

The following are suggestions on how to overcome 4 common barriers to physical activity.

1. “I don’t have time.”

What you can try

  • Build activity into your day: walk or ride your bike for transportation.
  • Get off the bus a stop early and walk the rest of the way.
  • Take the stairs whenever possible.
  • Plan fun, “active” activities with friends and family.
  • Sign up for physical education at your school.
  • Walk around the mall twice before you start shopping.

2. “I don’t like sports” or “I’m not good at any sports.”

What you can try

  • Consider active hobbies, like gardening. You don’t have to play a sport to be active.
  • Choose an activity that you enjoy. Dancing, bicycling, and swimming are fun choices. And walking counts too.
  • Consider volunteer work, like helping at a youth center or serving meals at a shelter.
  • Find a friend, sibling, or other family member to be an “activity buddy” and schedule a fun activity 2 to 3 times a week.

3. “My neighborhood isn’t safe.”

What you can try

  • Use a workout video or DVD in your home.
  • Dance in your home to your favorite music.
  • Find a YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, or community recreation center in your neighborhood.
  • Sign up for school activities such as physical education or after-school programs.

4. “I’m overweight or out of shape.”

What you can try

  • Start slow with 10 to 15 minutes of activity; walking is a great start.
  • Build short activity breaks into your day; take the stairs!
  • Count up your daily sit-down activities (computer, video games, TV time) and decrease them by 30 minutes.
  • Join an after-school program or community program that involves activity or learning a new skill—get a friend to go with you.

Physical Activity Plan

Each member can use the following questions to help create a personal physical activity plan. Parents can help their children answer the questions. Parents also should remember that they can be powerful role models and can shape their children’s perception of physical activity and exercise.

  1. What are the main benefits I want from being physically active?
  2. What are the reasons or barriers that keep me from being active?
  3. If necessary, what will be my solutions to these barriers?
  4. What activity or activities am I going to do?
  5. Where am I going to do this activity?
  6. When am I going to be active (include time of day and on which days of the week)?
  7. How long or how many minutes will I be active each day?
  8. Who will be my activity buddy?

Overcoming Tissue Damage and Stress Chemicals Associated with Exercise

If we are going to discuss the role of nutrition in exercise, it is important to first discuss the different aspects of exercise that can benefit from good nutrition—overcoming tissue damage and stress chemicals and providing fuel for exercise at all levels. Our bodies are incredibly capable of handling and adapting to exercise. Microscopic breakdown occurs every day, which your body repairs during rest with the use of healthy tissues and good nutrients. However, if the breakdown is not able to completely repair before the next bout of exercise demand, it starts to exceed the repair, and an overuse injury begins to form. This is the common scenario in which exercise or training is too intense or too often without proper recovery time.

You know, the paper clip theory—keep bending it and it will break. During intense exercise activity and any associated emotional stress, a process occurs called oxidative stress, during which the body produces chemical by-products such as cortisol and free radicals.

Consider these by-products the exhaust produced by your car engine. These chemicals are catabolic, which means they are more likely to break down or damage tissues in the body instead of build them up. This isn’t an organic chemistry class, but let’s just say that all of the processes happening in the body to produce the energy output required for exercise also produce bad waste products that need to be cleared from the body. We don’t have chimneys to clear that smoke, so our bodies must rely on other means to clear them.

If the production of these chemicals is too high and exercise is too intense, this combination can have a negative effect on the good tissues of the body, causing damage to our DNA, muscle soreness, poor recovery from exercise, and a progressive decline in performance. Inability of the body to recover also overstresses the immune system, allowing infections to strike when the body is vulnerable. Excess free radicals are basically scavengers that steal valuable ingredients necessary for body repair, recovery, and energy production. Ways to help reduce this oxidative stress and free radical production include

  • Spread out highly intense exercise bouts.
  • Allow sufficient recovery time.
  • Get adequate rest.
  • Stay well hydrated.
  • Have daily nutrition that is high in antioxidants, which directly fight free radicals (the body’s Pac-Man effect).

Antioxidants are found in foods with high sources of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and phytochemicals (plant chemicals) such as raw, colorful fruits and vegetables. These nutritional sources are absolutely necessary for the athletic or active individual.

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