Oh, the Benefits of Being Active

By Charlyn Fargo

November 16, 2018 7 min read

Want to be healthy? Move more and sit less. It's as simple as that.

Sitting more has been linked by new evidence to higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and all-cause mortality, according to the second edition of the "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans," published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for 2018. All physical activity, especially moderate-to-vigorous activity, can help offset these risks.

Here are the top-10 things to know:

Preschool-aged children should be active throughout the day to enhance growth and development. Adults caring for these children should encourage active play (light, moderate or vigorous intensity) and aim for at least 3 hours per day.

Youth ages 6 through 17 need at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity each day. Most activity can be aerobic, such as walking or running — anything that makes their hearts beat faster. They also need activities that make their muscles and bones strong, such as climbing on playground equipment, playing basketball and jumping rope.

Adults should get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking or fast dancing, each week. Adults also need muscle-strengthening activity, like lifting weights or doing push-ups, at least two days each week.

Physical activity has many independent health benefits — and any amount of physical activity has some health benefits. The second edition of the "Physical Activity Guidelines" encourages Americans to move more frequently throughout the day, removing the first edition's set minimum of 10-minute sessions.

Physical activity has immediate health benefits, such as lowering anxiety and blood pressure and improving quality of sleep and insulin sensitivity.

Consistent long-term physical activity can help improve youth's cognition, bone health, fitness and heart health — and can also reduce the risk of depression. Physical activity helps adults prevent eight types of cancer (bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, stomach and lung); reduces the risk of dementia (including Alzheimer's disease), all-cause mortality, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and depression; and improves bone health, physical function and quality of life. Physical activity also lowers older adults' risk of falls and injuries from falls. For pregnant women, physical activity reduces the risk of postpartum depression. For all groups, physical activity reduces the risk of excessive weight gain and helps people maintain a healthy weight.

Physical activity can help with existing health conditions, too. It can reduce pain from osteoarthritis, reduce disease progression for hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and improve cognition for those with dementia, multiple sclerosis, ADHD and Parkinson's disease


Q: I keep seeing new products labeled "gluten-free." I understand this is important for people with celiac disease, but should everybody try to eat gluten-free?

A: The answer is no, according to Professor Emeritus Robert Russell of the Friedman School at Tufts University. In celiac patients, there is an immunologic reaction against a component of gluten that is contained in wheat, rye and barley. A gluten-free diet is restrictive and expensive to maintain. If you are having a problem with intermittent abdominal bloating and pain, unintentional weight loss or chronic diarrhea, you should consult your doctor, who can diagnose celiac disease with a simple blood test. A gluten-free diet will promptly lessen symptoms in those who have been diagnosed with celiac disease. Although many people with celiac disease are asymptomatic, there is no good evidence that a gluten-free diet will benefit most people in any way.

Information courtesy of Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter.


I was surprised to go to my mailbox and see that Cooking Light published its farewell issue in December. I've enjoyed the magazine over the years as a trusted way to make healthier recipes. Here's my favorite recipe from the latest issue. Thanks, Cooking Light, for all of the good ones over the years.


3 cups lower-sodium chicken broth

3 cups water

1 1/2 cups uncooked stone-ground yellow grits

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 cup chopped yellow onion

1 cup chopped poblano chile

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 cups unsalted fire-roasted diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon lower-sodium Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1/4 cup unsalted butter, divided

1 pound peeled and deveined raw, medium shrimp

2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, divided

2 1/2 tablespoons half-and-half

3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

Bring chicken broth and 3 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high. Whisk in grits; reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 20 to 23 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add onion and poblano; cook, stirring often, until onion is softened, 8 to 9 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute. Stir in diced tomatoes, Worcestershire, black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Simmer 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon butter; cook, stirring often, until butter is melted. Add shrimp, cook until just pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 6 tablespoons Parmesan, half-and-half, remaining 3 tablespoons butter and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt to grits; stir to combine. Divide grits among 6 bowls; top with shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with scallions and remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan; drizzle evenly with hot sauce. Serves 6; 1 cup grits and 1 cup shrimp mixture per serving).

Per serving: 369 calories, 20 grams protein, 38 grams carbohydrate, 15 grams fat, 3 grams fiber, 4 grams sugars, 698 milligrams sodium.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with Hy-Vee in Springfield, Illinois, and a spokesperson for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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