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Many people are now living sedentary lives. Aside from sitting all day at work, we spend most of our nights sitting on a couch or lying on the bed watching endless hours of TV.
What’s worse is that we gorge ourselves on unhealthy junk food and have several other unhealthy habits that wreak havoc on our overall health.
The result is a sluggish body that is unfit and prone to disease. What’s worse is that it can lead to chronic conditions, a poor quality of life, and shortened life span.
This type of lifestyle not only affects the body but the mind and spirit as well. If you feel that you get irritated quickly or if you always forget where your keys are, then that’s the body’s way of telling you that something is wrong.
Fortunately, it is rarely too late to turn things around and try to get your body back in shape. This is what the physical activity pyramid aims to do.
What exactly is the physical activity pyramid and how can it help me achieve a healthier body and improved way of life? Are lifestyle activities like walking or washing the dog included?
These questions, plus more, will be answered and addressed in this article.
What is the Physical Activity Pyramid?
The physical activity pyramid is similar to the food pyramid. Instead of food, however, the physical activity pyramid gives you a visual representation of what and how much physical activity you should do to maintain a healthy body.
The physical activity pyramid defines the types of activity at each tier, and how frequently you should perform these activities. The lower the tier of the pyramid, the more commonly you should do these activities or exercises.
Like the food pyramid, there are several versions of the physical activity pyramid. Some have only four tiers while others have five or even more.
There are also others that are more complicated than others. However, we will try and discuss the physical activity pyramid in the simplest way possible for the purpose of this article.
All physical activity pyramids have a formula known as FIT, which stands for Frequency, Intensity, and Time.
Generally, the higher you go up the levels, the higher the intensity but the less frequency and time required. This trend reverses as you go down the pyramid.
Although the term FIT may not be used throughout the article, it will be implied throughout the entire discussion of each specific level.
What are the Benefits of the Physical Activity Pyramid?
The physical activity pyramid, when followed correctly, provides a variety of positive benefits not only on the physical aspect but for your overall health and well-being as well.
Each tier focuses on specific aspects of health but they all work towards giving good effects to your body. These benefits include a stronger musculoskeletal system, a more flexible body, better lung capacity, increased metabolism, improved blood circulation, and many more.
The physical activity pyramid also helps in improving mood and sleep, reducing stress, preventing obesity, and the reduction of the risk of getting chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and a variety of cancers.
All in all, following the physical activity pyramid will not only make you feel better, but it can also make you look better and younger. You will lose your belly fat and your clothes will fit better.
You will be able to move and breathe easier. You will have more strength and more energy throughout the day. Overall, the result will be a much better quality of life for you and those around you.
What are the Levels of the Physical Activity Pyramid?
Different versions of the physical activity pyramid will have different tiers or levels. However, these are the ones that appear most commonly.
Take note also that the level of activities in the physical activity pyramid does not denote intensity or importance. Rather, it denotes how often you should integrate these activities into your lifestyle.
Take note also that some levels are combined or expounded depending on how basic or complicated the physical activity pyramid that you are looking at is.
Nevertheless, the concept of each level is included throughout the entire structure.
Lifestyle Physical Activity
Lifestyle physical activity is located at the lowest level of the physical activity pyramid. These types of activities pertain to actions that require minimal effort but still require you to move around.
Examples of these include walking, washing the dog, doing household chores, or playing with your kids.
These types of activities do not usually leave you gasping for breath but it does require you to perform some form of physical effort. These actions, especially when done regularly, can help you burn calories and tone some muscles.
It is also the easiest type of physical activity to perform that even those with slight mobility issues, those suffering from arthritic pain, or seniors can do some of these tasks easily.
Being located at the lowest tier of the physical activity pyramid, lifestyle physical activity does not have the most obvious impact, but the benefits are cumulative.
Health experts suggest that lifestyle physical activities be done daily for thirty to sixty minutes a day to get the most benefits.
Active aerobic activities are activities that require you to use more oxygen. You will also need to raise your heart rate up and keep it up for the duration of the exercises.
Some active aerobics do not require special equipment. Most of these can also be done alone.
Examples of active aerobic exercises include jogging, swimming, riding a bike, skipping rope, climbing the stairs, and any other activity that raises your heart rate and activates your slow-twitch muscles.
Aerobic activities can help burn fat fast and increase metabolism. It can also help tone the body further and strengthen the joints. In some cases, it can also help improve your posture.
Experts suggest performing active aerobics for 20 minutes at least three times a week.
Active Sports and Recreation
Active sports and recreation is a more intense form of active aerobics. Here, you are encouraged to engage in sports either as an individual or with a team.
Not only do sports provide you with health benefits like calorie burning, muscle toning, and improvement of strength, and balance, among others, but it also helps in exercising the brain.
Sports will generally stimulate creativity, focus, strategy, and memorization skills, among others. It can also help beat positive qualities like sportsmanship, discipline, and camaraderie.
Examples of some good sports and recreation activities include skiing, basketball, soccer, tennis, badminton, and even boxing.
Some may even lump in activities like HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, and circuit training on this level. Some, on the other hand, would classify this as part of active aerobics.
In any case, the FIT formula for these two levels is essentially the same.
Muscle fitness is yet another important level of the physical fitness pyramid. This involves resistance training and any other activities that help you build muscle and gain strength.
There are many ways that you can perform muscle fitness exercises. What is important, though, is to understand load management and how muscles develop based on the resistance and frequency of exercises.
A trainer can be very helpful to help you reach your goals. They can also help you keep motivated throughout the entire process.
Aside from weight training, plyometrics and wall climbing are also some muscle fitness activities that you can try out as these help activate the slow-twitch muscle fibers that are responsible for overall power improvement and explosiveness.
Muscle fitness activities not only help in developing muscle and strength, but they can also help you avoid injuries. It also helps in increasing your metabolism as muscles burn calories faster compared to fat.
If you are only doing muscle fitness for general health, it is recommended that you do a minimum of 20-minute exercises two to three times a day.
Muscle fitness exercises may also cause an increase in breathing and heart rate, but this is not always the case.
If you don’t want to skip days, then allowing ample time for the muscles to recover by working on alternating parts of the body is recommended.
It is also recommended that you perform weight resistance training using proper form in order to avoid injuries that would set you back.
Flexibility is yet another important aspect of the physical activity pyramid. This ensures that you can move freely and that your muscles do not get injured easily even when they are strained a bit above normal limits.
Stretching exercises, yoga, Pilates, and other flexibility exercises can provide physical benefits, but some also treat it as a form of mental exercise. These types of exercises can help reduce stress and can help you relax as well.
As an individual session, experts recommend stretching muscle groups for 10 to 30 seconds 2 to 4 times. This can be done at least 3 days a week.
Many people also do stretching exercises before or after working out or participating in sports to help increase blood circulation, warm the body up, help avoid injuries, and overall make their bodies work better.
Sitting at the top of the physical activity pyramid is energy balance. This is pretty much a daily lifestyle activity and can be very difficult especially if you are starting out.
This pertains to your daily diet and dictates the balance of calories coming into your body versus the calories coming out in terms of energy burned.
Simply put, the food and drinks that you consume are converted into calories, and any type of physical activity plus any energy that your body uses to maintain its regular functions uses up those calories.
Any other unused calories are then stored as fat. In the event of a caloric deficit, fat reserves are then consumed.
Energy balance simply means that you must eat based on your caloric expenditures. If you have a lot of fat stores, you can put yourself in a caloric deficit to help burn off that extra fat.
Of course, eating the right foods is also essential. You must have a good balance of nutrients in the food you eat, and you should avoid foods rich in sugars, some types of oil, preservatives, and other harmful chemicals.
A good dietician or your doctor can help set you on the right path to achieve and maintain caloric balance. However, it takes a lot of discipline to not only keep yourself active but to also eat the right kinds – and quantity – of foods.
Some versions of the physical activity pyramid have inactivity or being sedentary as the top level. This does not mean that this is the most important thing to do. Rather, it is something that should be avoided.
While it can be tempting to simply lounge around and not do anything, this should be limited to a minimum.
Of course, rest and relaxation are important, especially after a workout. It is also important to rest in order to heal from any injuries or sickness.
Simply put, it is in your best interest to keep active and to ensure that you don’t become a couch potato.
How Do I Get Started?
The simplest way to get started is to move around. Start by simply walking more often. If you drive your car to work, you can try riding a bike instead. For short trips, walking will not only save on gas money but your body will thank you for it, too.
From there, you can easily work your way up the physical activity pyramid. Set a little time aside bit by bit, taking some time away from just sitting on the couch and watching Netflix and turning it into the opportunity to jog or work out.
Eventually, you will be able to find a pattern and schedule that suits you best. There would also be some activities that you prefer. Stick with those activities but make sure that you can work your entire body to ensure balanced development.
Of course, as it almost all things, habits cannot be formed if you are not enjoying yourself. With that being said, try to have fun as well. Try walking with a dog or playing basketball with your co-workers, for example.
Don’t be discouraged if you cannot stick to everything in the physical activity pyramid. You can also definitely do more or less of what is indicated in the guide as it is not set in stone.
In fact, many athletes train multiple days a week, yet they are one of the fittest people on the planet. For regular joes like us, though, it is recommended that you do not overdo it.
Like always, make sure to take some rest if you do not feel well or are hurt. It is also recommended that you consult with a doctor if you have any conditions or issues that you are concerned with.
It is also very important to start improving your diet and getting plenty of sleep. These lifestyle choices can help give your body time to recover as well as the energy it needs to perform at its peak.
The physical activity pyramid is a guide towards getting a healthy body. Not only that, but it affects other aspects of your life as well.
No matter what version of the physical activity pyramid you are following, know that each level is important. From the bottom-rung lifestyle physical activities to ensuring that you are eating the right kinds of foods, all work towards giving maximum benefit to your health.
The best time to get healthy and fit is now. So, get walking and start your journey towards a healthier way of living.