Almost forty years ago, Dr. Ken Cooper, an Air Force researcher, announced his findings about exercise, health, and well-being. The report focused on cardiovascular conditioning and fitness.

These findings were based on studies conducted on thousands of people in and around an Air Force base in Texas. At the time, the information took North America by storm, both among laypersons and medical practitioners, because the results definitively suggested guidelines for cardiovascular health maintenance.

In sum, Dr. Cooper recommended that each person should get three weekly sessions of total body movement (activity), each lasting twenty to thirty minutes. This prescription for CV health was a minimum and became a medical health standard.

Now, in the ever-evolving digital age, and traveling the supertechnological highway of passivity the question is: Is that minimum standard enough?

Unfortunately, my friends, I am sad to report that it isn’t.

Does this mean you should begin your marathon training today?

Fortunately, no.

In years leading up to1986, NASA embarked on a series of longitudinal studies on the effects of inactivity in preparation to understand extended stays in space by cosmonauts. (A few days ago we just witnessed the return of five such spacepersons in the Shuttle Endeavor.) While the full (and horrific) results of the study are too lengthy to include here, please be aware that our sedentary lifestyles (chairs, cars, TV, lack of movement) have led many of us to a very scary place in terms of health and well-being.

Pain and discomfort.

These familiar conditions result from the collapse of human bodily function, which the NASA study predicted. A key factor is the loss of proper alignment of the body in relation to the force of gravity, which works on the body 24 hours a day.
Put simply, the body requires purposeful, functional total body movement (not necessarily cardiovascular) every 24 hours (more frequently for some) or many of the key systems, such as blood flow, immunity, kinesthetic, and muscular balance, begin to decline in function quite dramatically.

In other words, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

So, what are the options?

For health and function of your body in the 21st century, many of you will need to undertake some sort of total body activity for at least one hour per day, possibly two.

I know, a tall order in this super busy day and age.

Here are some hints*:
1)Most important, try to select activities you like.
2)The above time frame does not need to be performed all at the same time. Preferably, increments of 12 to 36 minutes should be undertaken (unless debilitated physical condition).
3)Sample activities: walking, gardening, cycling, tennis, pilates, yoga, swimming (though not load bearing). Ideally, to counteract the NASA findings, movement should be load-bearing.

Whatever you choose, try to make it fun and enjoyable and start slow.
Remember: walking is perhaps the single best activity, if you are able.

“The body is designed for movement” (Overall finding from the NASA studies, according to Sandler and Vernikos, editors.)

*May be wise to see your physician before beginning any exercise regimen.

Cooper, M.D., Ken. 1970. Aerobics.

Sandler, H. and J. Vernikos, ed. 1986. Inactivity: Physiological Effects. Orlando: Harcourt and Brace Jovanovich.

Author's Bio: 

Geoffrey M. Gluckman is a features writer for print publications in the United States, Canada, and Australia and the author/creator of the Muscle Balance and Function Development® education system. He is also the author of Deadly Exchange, a riveting corporate espionage thriller.