To reiterate the message above, people can achieve great outcomes with many different exercise approaches. However, specific interventions are needed for physiologic adaptation. Pain and function are different from cardiovascular and metabolic health. Walking can be a fantastic exercise for mental health. It can serve as a foundation for cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and metabolic health if someone is severely deconditioned. Walking cannot replace resistance training, however, and its intensity often remains low, causing a plateauing of other adaptations quickly. Remember, the physical activity guidelines include moderate or vigorous aerobic activity and resistance training. Walking does not satisfy the latter and rarely the former.
This qualitative study addresses the misunderstanding of the physical activity guidelines. First, most people are unaware of the strengthening component. Second, most aerobic activities are low intensity, such as walking. While the graphics and educational material explain the full guidelines, it is easy to see how they are misunderstood. Carrying heavy bags and yoga are provided as ‘build strength’ options while stairs and brisk walks fit vigorous and moderate physical activity respectively. How often do most people carry heavy bags? Do you climb stairs for 75 minutes a week? How rapid is a brisk walk? Not only do the guidelines lack clarity, but they also fail to address barriers. That’s where we as providers can step in.
Using HR and RPE, we can teach patients how to track intensity. We can learn about their barriers and resources to develop a personalized exercise routine. Walking and being more physically active are great first steps that will help someone improve their health. Let’s work on taking it a step further and help our patients meet the physical activity guidelines.