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New Year, New You: Let’s Get Moving

Happy New Year! Are you ready to get moving?

Whether or not you have made a new year’s resolution to exercise more, most of us could benefit from an honest assessment of our physical activity routine:

  • Are we getting enough physical activity?
  • Are we getting the right kind of physical activity?

The answer for many of us is, probably not.  But don’t despair!  With a little planning, it’s not hard to get 2024 off on the right foot.  Privia Medical Group North Texas physicians are here to help. 

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Before beginning any exercise routine, visit with your physician to ensure that exercise is safe for you.  Exercising with an undetected, underlying health condition can result in serious injury, illness or death. 

What is Physical Activity & Exercise?

What is exercise and why do we need it?  Technically, what we need is physical activity.  Physical activity is defined as any movement of the body that increases the amount of energy used beyond a resting level.

“Think of it this way: when you are sitting on your couch watching TV, your body expends a minimal amount of energy,” explains Dr. Steven Meyers, a sports medicine specialist with offices in Fort Worth and Weatherford.  “When you get motivated and turn off the TV to tackle chores around the house, you’re expending more energy than when you were on the couch – that’s physical activity.”   

Of course, not all physical activity is the same.  Pushing a vacuum cleaner across the floor is a physical activity.  It’s not the same as running a couple of miles, but it’s an activity nonetheless and provides some benefit to our health (in addition to the benefit of clean floors). 

All exercise is a form of physical activity.  Exercise is defined as a physical activity that is “planned, structured, repetitive, and performed with the goal of improving health or fitness.” As you can tell by the household chore example, not all physical activity would be considered exercise. 

People with physically demanding jobs that require them to be on their feet and moving around throughout the day will get more physical activity than someone who works at a desk.  Think of someone who loads and unloads trucks in a warehouse or waits tables in a restaurant.  That doesn’t mean folks in those jobs don’t need exercise – they just may not need as much, because of the physical nature of their work.    

How Much Physical Activity Do We Need?

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services released updated guidelines for recommended physical activity levels in 2018 and has recently re-confirmed them.  For aerobic activity, the weekly guidelines for adults, are:

  • Between 150 and 300 minutes (2 hours, 30 minutes to 5 hours) of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity OR
  • 75 to 150 minutes (1 hour, 15 minutes to 2 hours, 30 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity OR
  • An equivalent combination of the two.

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity is anything that gets your heart rate up, like going for a brisk walk.  Vigorous exercise, like running, will get your heart rate way up. 

In addition, adults should make time for strength exercise by doing moderate to greater intensity exercises that involve all major muscle groups, twice a week. 1

Older adults are encouraged to also incorporate balance training into their physical activity routine.  Read more about the different types of exercise below.

“It’s important to recognize that any physical activity is better than none,” says Dr. James Parker, an internal medicine physician in Fort Worth.  “One of the most important things we can do is to stand and walk around more often and sit less.  If you work at a desk job, it pays to be intentional about getting up and moving around, at least once every hour.”    

Movement Throughout the Day

As you can see, not all physical activity involves exercise.  So, if you’re thinking “there is no way I can work out two-and-a-half hours a week,” keep in mind it doesn’t all need to be planned, scheduled exercise.  Other, easy ways you can get in more physical activity include:

  • Household chores, gardening, yard work
  • Parking a greater distance from the entrance to the store, your work, etc. The extra steps will make a positive difference.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator, especially if you’re just going up a flight or two.
  • Take a ten-minute walk on your lunch break.
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There is a lot of low-hanging fruit to be had when it comes to getting more physical activity.  We have probably lost out on some of that organic activity since the COVID-19 pandemic.  Many folks are still working from home, at least part of the time.  While that has a lot of advantages, it can also mean not moving around as much (walking to and from the car, down the hall at the office, etc.). 

In addition, we’ve gained a lot of new conveniences since the pandemic.  Ordering everything online and having it delivered to our doorstep is nice, but it also means we’re not burning a few extra calories by walking around the grocery store. 

And speaking of the grocery store – are we going there often enough? Or are we leaning too heavily on meal-delivery services?  More on that in our other article this month.

Why is Physical Activity So Important?

Losing weight – and keeping weight off – are two important, popular reasons people want to start exercising or increase their activity level.  In addition to weight loss, there are a lot of other good reasons to get moving:   

  • Live healthier & longer:  Exercise promotes good health and can help prevent or delay the onset of numerous health challenges, including heart disease, stroke, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, falls and depression.
  • Good for your mind and soul: Exercise improves your mood and is a great way to relieve stress!  People who are physically active are less likely to suffer from depression.
  • A natural energy booster:  Exercise gives you energy and keeps you feeling good throughout the day. 
  • Sleep better:  Regular exercise helps you sleep better.  Getting adequate sleep is also linked to fighting a range of serious diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. 
  • Be sharper: Some studies suggest that physical activity can aid cognitive ability, improving memory and problem-solving skills. 

Types of Exercise

There are four broad categories of exercise.  Each offers key benefits and it’s best to get a combination of these exercises into your routine:

  • Aerobic:  Aerobic exercises, also known as cardio, increase your breathing and heart rate.  This has the effect of giving your heart and lungs a workout.  By causing your heart to beat faster to pump blood, cardio exercise helps your heart become stronger and healthier. 

Cardio also burns a lot of calories, helping us keep excess weight off.  It can also help lower blood pressure and increases the good HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol carries the bad LDL cholesterol out of our bodies, helping prevent heart disease. 

Common cardio activities include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Jogging or running
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Using an elliptical or rowing machine
  • Strength training: Also known as resistance training, this makes your muscles stronger.  Studies have shown that strength training two times per week helps to build muscle mass and bone density. This is especially important for older adults to prevent falls, loss of balance and broken bones.  Strength training also helps prevent osteoporosis and provide relief from arthritis and back pain. 
  • Balance exercises:  Balance exercises help prevent falls.  Tai chi is an example of balance exercise.
  • Flexibility exercises: These stretch your muscles and help prevent injury.  Yoga is a good example of flexibility exercise. 

Where Do I Start?

“You don’t need to invest in a gym membership or buy a bunch of equipment to get in regular exercise and improve your physical fitness,” says Dr. Tim Shepherd, a family medicine physician in Flower Mound.  “As long as you have some comfortable shoes you can walk in, you’re ready to get started!”

Go for a brisk walk around your neighborhood for 30 minutes.  Do this five days a week and you will begin reaping the rewards of a cardio workout.

Two days a week, do some strength exercises.  Again, you don’t necessarily need to go to the gym or buy any weights.  Instead, you can do bodyweight exercises.  Common examples include:

  • Push-ups (strengthens your arms and chest)
  • Pull-ups (strengthens your arms)
  • Sit-ups (strengthens your abdominal muscles)
  • Bodyweight squat (strengths your legs)
  • Lunge (strengths your legs)
  • Plank (strengths your core)

There are many free online resources that feature guides and videos for these and countless other exercises that you can refer to. 

Don’t Forget to Rest

Sometimes when we are highly motivated to start and maintain a new exercise routine, we can overdo it.  Exercising too much, too fast can lead to injury.  Be sure to give your body regular rest to allow it time to recover.  Doing so will make your next workout more productive and prevent an injury that could derail your exercise routine for weeks. 

Make 2024 Your Year to Get Moving

When you consider the many physical and mental health benefits of increased physical activity throughout the day, it just makes sense to make it a priority.  Yes, everyone is busy and it’s easy to get sidetracked, but with a little planning and self -discipline, you can make 2024 your year to take control of your health and get the physical activity you need to live a healthier, happier and maybe even longer life.

This article has been reviewed and approved by a panel of Privia Medical Group North Texas physicians. 

This article contains information sourced from:

Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition (

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Library of Medicine

10 Things to Know About the Physical Activity Guidelines Midcourse Report |

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