Physical Activity – How to Start

Physical Activity – How to Start
Information Resources

By Evelyn Cunico, MA, MSLIS
Posted June 28, 2016

Background

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, released in 2008, are based on scientific evidence that regular physical activity can improve the health and quality of life of Americans of all ages.

Yet, according to Healthy People 2020, which is the nation’s 10-year goals and objectives agenda for health promotion and disease prevention, more than 80 percent of adults do not meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. And, more than 80 percent of adolescents lack aerobic physical activity to meet the Guidelines for youth.

Understanding Physical Activity

It is important to understand the factors that determine whether you become physically active. According to Healthy People 2020, factors that are positively associated with physical activity among all age groups – that is, adults, adolescents, and children, include:

  • Belief in ability to be active (self-efficacy)
  • Social support from family and friends

And, among youth ages 13 to 18 and children ages 4 to 12, another factor that stands out as positively associated with physical activity is Gender (boys).

These factors suggest that if you believe in your ability to be active, and if your family and friends support your efforts to be active, and if you are a boy, you are more likely to be active than if one of these factors is not so.

You may wish to see additional factors at Healthy People 2020. Physical Activity.

How can you, as parents and as a community, strengthen your belief and your child’s belief in the ability to be active (self-efficacy)?

How can you provide social support for your spouse and your family members, so that they build physical activity into their daily routine?

What can you do to encourage girls, as well as  boys, to increase their physical activity for enjoyment and a healthy lifestyle?

Why Physical Activity is Important

Physical activity can lower the risk of many health threats, including the following illnesses and risk factors:

  • Breast and colon cancer
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes

Following are just a few ways in which physical activity can promote health:

  • Decrease levels of body fat
  • Encourage social interactions
  • Improve cardio-respiratory and muscular fitness
  • Reduce symptoms of depression
  • Strengthen bones

Believe in Your Ability to Be Active (Self-Efficacy)

  • Make a decision that if you give it a chance, physical activity will increase your energy level. Then, try it.
  • Plan to be active at times in the day or week when you feel you have a lot of energy.
  • To start, select activities that require no new skills, such as climbing stairs or walking.
  • Identify low-cost resources, such as  community parks and recreation programs

Ask for Social Support from Your Family and Friends

  • Ask family and friends to support your efforts.
  • Ask family and friends to be active with you in activities, such as dancing or jumping rope.
  • Play with your children at a game of tag, or ask them to join you for an exercise video at a public library.
  • Join a group, such as the YMCA, or start a walking group at your church or neighborhood.

Talk with Your Daughters about Fun Physical Activities

  • Suggest that your daughter think of a song that makes her feel happy and then dance to the song.
  • If your daughter likes to ride her bike with friends, encourage her and her friends to ride to a community park and take healthy foods for a picnic.
  • Teach your daughter how to build physical activity into her daily life. For example, walking with friends at the mall is an activity that strengthens bones and friendships.
  • Help your daughter to avoid excuses. For example, if your daughter worries about not looking good when she is active, encourage her to start physical activity in personal space, such as dancing in her room, or marching in place.
  • Encourage your daughters with smiles and hugs. Talk with your daughters about the importance of simply doing their best. There is no such thing as perfect.

Spend Time with Your Family

Remember to give time to your daughters, as well as to your sons. And, whenever possible, find physical activities that your family can do together, such as swimming or walking. You will be helping to build flexible bodies, strong minds, and emotional bonds that last a lifetime.

Disclaimer: The information presented in this blog should not replace the medical advice of your doctor. You should not use this information to diagnose or to treat any disease, illness, or other health condition without first consulting with your medical doctor or other healthcare provider.

Selected Information Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Physical Activity.
Summary Note: The CDC Index page for Physical Activity. Includes links to Physical Activity Basics, Resources and Publications, Worksite Physical Activity, Data and Statistics, Community Strategies, and Walking.
(Accessed 11 June 2016)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Physical Activity. Making Physical Activity a Part of a Child’s Life
Summary Note: Suggestions on how to keep your child active. Includes sample schedules for a seven-year-old boy and a sixteen-year-old girl.
(Accessed 20 June 2016)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy Schools. Physical Activity Facts.
Summary Note: Includes Percentage of High School Students Participating in Physical Activity and Physical Education, by Sex, 2013. Links to Key Resources.
(Accessed 21 June 2016)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Physical Activity in U.S. Youth Aged 12-15 Years, 2012.
Summary Note: Key findings from the combined National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the NHANES National Youth Fitness Survey, 2012.
(Accessed 27 June 2016).

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity.
Summary Note: Suggestions for Overcoming Physical Activity Barriers, including physiological, behavioral, and psychological factors.
(Accessed 25 June 2016)

Health dot Gov. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
Summary Note: Science-based guidance to help Americans aged six and older to maintain or improve their health through regular activity. Downloadable PDF format document.
(Accessed 11 June 2016)

Healthy People dot Gov.
Summary Note: Home page of Healthy People dot Gov. Includes data on economic, environmental, personal, and social factors that determine health behavior.

Healthy People dot Gov. Healthy People 2020. Physical Activity.
Summary Note: Overview of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, released in 2008. Includes Factors Positively Associated with Physical Activity for Adults, for Adolescents, and for Children. Among other factors, includes Belief in Ability to Be Active (self-efficacy), Support from Family and Friends, and Gender (boys).
(Accessed 11 June 2016)

Healthy People dot Gov. Social Determinants.
Summary Note: Discuses Social Determinants as a Leading Health Topic. Recognizes the roles of home, community, neighborhood, school, and workplace in improving health.
(Accessed 27 June 2016)

Let’s Move dot Gov. Increase Physical Activity Opportunities.
Summary Note: Suggestions to community leaders, schools, and health care providers, on how to increase physical activity opportunities. Part of the Let’s Move initiative launched February 09, 2010 by First Lady Michelle Obama, to help solve the challenge of childhood obesity.
(Accessed 21 June 2016)

Let’s Move dot Gov. Parents Take Action. Five Simple Steps to Success.
Summary Note: Suggests five steps that parents and caregivers can take to help create a healthy environment at home by planning weekly menus, sharing family time, and organizing a school health team.
(Accessed 21 June 2016)

National Institutes of Health. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity and Nutrition). Background
Summary Note: Discusses We Can! The science-based, national educational program launched June 01, 2005, aims to help children stay at a healthy weight through community action and partnership development. We Can! is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
(Accessed 21 June 2016)

National Institutes of Health. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity and Nutrition). Everyday Ideas to Move More.
Summary Note: Everyday ideas to help your family move more each day, while having fun together. Adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention document, titled, Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity.
(Accessed 21 June 2016)

Nemours Foundation. Teens Health. Easy Exercises for Teens.
Summary Note: Instructions and photos demonstrate three simple strength-building exercises that can be done at home. Includes links to related topics for teens.
(Accessed 21 June 2016)

Nemours Foundation. Teens Health. Motivation and the Power of Not Giving Up.
Summary Note: Brief paragraphs discuss Knowing Your Goal, Being Specific, Getting Motivated, and Not Giving Up.
(Accessed 21 June 2016)

Nemours Foundation. Teens Health. Yoga.
Summary Note: Discusses different types of Yoga. Links to related topics.
(Accessed 21 June 2016)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office on Women’s Health. GirlsHealth dot Gov. Fitness.
Summary Note: Links and video with workout tips for girls. Includes How to Make a Fitness Plan Work for You, and What Girls are Doing to Stay Fit and Have Fun.
(Accessed 21 June 2016)

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office on Women’s Health. GirlsHealth dot Gov. Types of Physical Activity.
Summary Note: Lists three types of physical activity: Aerobic activity, Muscle-strengthening activity, and Bone-strengthening activity. Describes how and why each activity is important for healthy body and mind. Links to stretches for specific parts of your body.
(Accessed 21 June 2016)

U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. Definitions of Health Terms: Fitness.
Summary Note: Fitness terms to help you to understand how to make the most of your physical activity routine.
(Accessed 21 June 2016)

U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. Exercise for Children.
Summary Note: MedlinePlus topic page for Exercise for Children. Extensive information resources from federal government departments and nonprofit organizations. Sections are categorized by Children, Girls, and Teenagers. Includes links to journal articles.
(Accessed 11 June 2016)

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