All About Moderate-Intensity Activity

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So far in Lark DPP, you may have noticed a lot of focus on moderate-intensity physical activity. This kind of activity can not only help you lose weight, but also lower risk for type 2 diabetes risk. That is why the DPP asks you to aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity.

As the Lark DPP check-in mentioned, moderate-intensity activity brings many other benefits. Many benefits, such as lowering risk for heart disease or living longer, are in the future. Still, many other benefits of activity come immediately. Noticeable immediate benefits may include a better mood, reduced stress, and increased confidence, but there are also immediate benefits that you may not feel. 

Learning about the less visible, but immediate benefits of activity may further motivate you to hit your numbers today and every day. Here is what you should know about what moderate-intensity activity is and what it can do for you - now!

 

Getting into the Moderate-Intensity Zone


You can get up to your 150 or more minutes per week however you like, whether in three short 10-minute sessions a day, or longer sessions each day or a few times a week.

List of Moderate-Intensity Activities
  • Brisk walking
  • Gardening
  • Leisurely bicycling
  • Elliptical machine
  • Rowing machine
  • Stair climbing machine
  • Shooting hoops or playing half-court basketball
  • Playing doubles tennis
  • Water aerobics
  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Recreational swimming
 

How do you know if you are doing moderate-intensity activity? You can check your heart rate and use some equations to figure out if you are in the zone, but there are easier ways to monitor yourself. With moderate-intensity aerobic activity, you should feel like you are working, but not be working so hard that you need to stop after just a few minutes.

The “talk test” is a tried-and-true method of getting yourself into the moderate-intensity zone. When you are exercising, you should have enough breath to talk in short sentences, but you should not have enough wind to be able to sing.

 

Benefit: Lower Blood Pressure


High blood pressure and diabetes often go together, so why not work to prevent both with the same tool? Moderate-intensity physical activity can lower systolic blood pressure by 5 to 8 mm Hg, which is a significant amount. 

During exercise, your systolic blood pressure rises to 200 mm Hg or more to allow more oxygen to get to your working muscles. After you stop exercising, your blood pressure quickly drops to levels below pre-exercise blood pressure. The effects last for about 24 hours.

By the way, resistance training works to lower blood pressure, too. Ideally, you can do both moderate-intensity and resistance exercises to get double blood pressure-lowering benefits.

 

Benefit: Lower Blood Sugar


Sure, Lark DPP wants you to exercise to lower type 2 diabetes risk, and your glycated hemoglobin (A1c) may not decrease until a few months after you start making healthy lifestyle changes, but your blood sugar can go down the first time you get moving. 

Exercise increases your insulin sensitivity, which makes it easier for your cells to take up glucose from your blood, which leads to lower blood glucose levels. It is so simple, and yet so effective!

 

Benefit: Sleep Better


There may be an easy way to turn your dream of getting deep restful sleep into reality. The answer may be moderate-intensity physical activity. This activity can energize you during the day and make you pleasantly tired so you sleep better at night. You get another advantage if worry often keeps you up at night. Exercise reduces stress, which may allow you to sleep better.

Research shows that exercise:

  • Helps you get to sleep faster.

  • Increases your sleep quality.

  • Helps you stay asleep during the night.

Eventually, moderate-intensity physical activity can reduce dependency on sleep medications, improve symptoms of sleep apnea, and reduce insomnia.

 

Benefit: Get Smarter


How do you define “smarter?” However you do, physical activity may make you smarter. It improves cognition, increases alertness, and triggers the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which improves learning and memory.

You may perform better on cognitive tests on days you exercise compared to on days you do not exercise. You may not be taking cognitive tests in real life, but your brain function may be tested constantly at work and at home. You may be able to focus better and process faster if you have exercised that day.

Moderate-intensity physical activity can be one of the healthiest things you can do. It has all kinds of immediate and long-term benefits, including benefits you can feel and benefits that you will not be able to detect. As you keep working to lower blood sugar and prevent or delay type 2 diabetes, let Lark DPP help you increase your activity levels to increase the results.

 

Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Assistant Professor of Public Health