We are not saying anything new when we refer to sport and physical activity as one of the best ways to feel better, both physically and mentally. Ancient wisdom has been reminding us of this for almost two millennia with the expression Mens sana in corpore sano, or how important exercise is to maintain a healthy mind.
Exercise is an important part of preventive strategies for many chronic conditions, such as obesity, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and mental health problems. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that up to five million deaths a year could be avoided if people were more active.
The same organization estimates that one in four adults is not very active and that more than 80% of the adolescent population does not get enough physical activity. Reversing this trend should not be complicated. It is enough to be aware of the importance of moving more, with more intensity, and sitting less. Because it is not necessary to make big changes to see the benefits.
Physical activity, one of the four pillars of good health
The WHO recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, or 150 minutes a week, to stay healthy. But these 30 minutes a day are only 2% of the whole day. Is this enough to notice effects and feel better?
Physical activity alone is not enough to achieve beneficial health effects. In a study on the effects of sedentary lifestyles on health, the authors looked at the causes of mortality in adults with inactive lifestyles.
The conclusion was that exercise alone is not enough to prevent cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes or obesity if a person spends too much of the day sitting, even if they do some physical activity. Therefore, despite the health-enhancing benefits of physical activity, it is not enough to reduce the risk of disease.
Another study, also along the same lines, concludes that doing 30 minutes of exercise a day reduces by 80% the risk of disease. the risk of prematurity in people who spend less than seven hours a day sitting. But the same is not true for people who spend 11 to 12 hours a day sitting. A healthy lifestyle, therefore, requires more than the 30 minutes of exercise if you spend a lot of time sitting in a chair.
Nor can exercise counteract the negative effects of dangerous habits. Dr. Alvaro Aceña Navarro, a specialist in Cardiology and member of the Sports Cardiology Unit of the Jimenez Diaz Foundation warns. “Sport does not compensate for bad habits”, but should be considered as a complement.
Even, recognizes the expert, in some cases “can become even dangerous if certain behaviors such as smoking or alcohol consumption is not attenuated”. Therefore, as Aceña admits, it is important that physical activity is accompanied by other healthy habits such as a healthy diet (based on fruit, vegetables, grilled food, fish or poultry), avoiding unhealthy habits such as smoking or alcohol consumption and getting plenty of rest.
Sport, always with responsibility
Achieving good health does not mean that we have to exercise all day long. It is a matter of incorporating physical activity gradually, through activities such as walking, and adapting exercise to our physical condition. From the Sports Cardiology Unit of the Fundación Jiménez Díaz recommend “do sport with common sense”, especially if we have not done any kind of physical activity in recent months.
This will help us to avoid both muscle injuries and heart problems. We should pay attention to any worrying symptoms before or during physical exercise, or if we have a family member with a disease that may pose a risk. “From the age of 40-45 or in people with risk factors, it is important to have a cardiac evaluation before practising sports”, warns Doctor Álvaro Aceña Navarro.
The aforementioned Unit, and in its interest to ensure that sports practice is done safely, has a consultation room dedicated exclusively to sports habits, where they conduct a clinical interview and do a physical examination, in addition to non-invasive tests, all in one day, to “ensure peace of mind when it comes to doing sport.
In addition, the Madrid hospital has experience in the health care of elite athletes such as the members of the Spanish basketball team, of which the Quirónsalud Group is the Official Medical Service. A few months ago it carried out the medical examinations of the players of the men’s and women’s national teams before leaving for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which begin on Friday, July 23rd. The athletes have successfully undergone tests such as an analysis, an echocardiogram, an electrocardiogram and various imaging tests.