Active Living is a way of life that integrates physical activity into daily routines, like walking to the store or biking to work.
Active Living brings together urban planners, architects, transportation engineers, public health professionals and others to build places
that encourage routine activity. One example includes efforts to build sidewalks, crosswalks and other ways for children to walk safely
to and from school. Compact, mixed-use development, where residential uses are located close to stores, jobs and recreational opportunities
(parks, etc.) has also been found to encourage a more active lifestyle.
Active Living is a growing field that emerged from the early work of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with the release
of the Surgeon's General Report on Physical Activity and Health in 1996. In 1997, the CDC began the development of an initiative called
Active Community Environments (ACEs) coordinated by Rich Killingsworth (the founding director of Active Living by Design) and Tom Schmid,
a senior health scientist. The main programming thrust of ACEs was an emerging initiative called Safe Routes to School that was catalyzed
by a program designed by Rich Killingsworth and Jessica Shisler at CDC called KidsWalk-to-School. This program provided much needed
attention to the connections of the built environment and health, especially obesity and physical inactivity. In 2000, Robert Wood
Johnson Foundation formerly launched their Active Living initiative which comprised three national programs - Active Living by Design,
Active Living Research, and Active for Life. The main goal of these programs was to develop an understanding how the built environment
impacted physical activity and what could be done to increase physical activity.
Physical exercise is any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health. It is performed for many different
reasons. These include: strengthening muscles and the cardiovascular system, honing athletic skills, and weight loss or maintenance in the
overweight. Frequent and regular physical exercise boosts the immune system, and helps prevent diseases of affluence such as heart disease,
cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. It also improves mental health and helps prevent depression.
Physical exercise is important for maintaining physical fitness and can contribute positively to maintaining a healthy weight, building
and maintaining healthy bone density, muscle strength, and joint mobility, promoting physiological well-being, reducing surgical risks,
and strengthening the immune system.
Frequent and regular aerobic exercise has been shown to help prevent or treat serious and life-threatening chronic conditions such as
high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, insomnia, and depression. Strength training appears to have continuous
energy-burning effects that persist for about 24 hours after the training, though they do not offer the same cardiovascular benefits as
aerobic exercises do.
There is conflicting evidence as to whether vigorous exercise (more than 70% of VO2 Max) is more or less beneficial than moderate
exercise (40 to 70% of VO2 Max). Some studies have shown that vigorous exercise executed by healthy individuals can effectively
increase opioid peptides (aka endorphins, a naturally occurring opiate that in conjunction with other neurotransmitters is responsible
for exercise induced euphoria and has been shown to be addictive), positively influence hormone production (i.e., increase testosterone
and growth hormone), benefits that are not as fully realized with moderate exercise.
Exercise has been shown to improve cognitive functioning via improvement of hippocampus-dependent spatial learning, and enhancement
of synaptic plasticity and neurogenesis. In addition, physical activity has been shown to be neuroprotective in many
neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases. For instance, it reduces the risk of developing dementia. Furthermore, anecdotal
evidence suggests that frequent exercise may reverse alcohol-induced brain damage.
Physical activity is thought to have other beneficial effects related to cognition as it increases levels of nerve growth factors,
which support the survival and growth of a number of neuronal cells.
Both aerobic and anaerobic exercise also work to increase the mechanical efficiency of the heart by increasing cardiac volume
(aerobic exercise), or myocardial thickness (strength training, see Organ hypertrophy).
Not everyone benefits equally from exercise. There is tremendous variation in individual response to training: where
most people will see a moderate increase in endurance from aerobic exercise, some individuals will as much as double their
oxygen uptake, while others will never get any benefit at all from the exercise. Similarly, only a minority of people will
show significant muscle growth after prolonged weight training, while a larger fraction experience improvements in strength.
This genetic variation in improvement from training is one of the key physiological differences between elite athletes and the larger
population. Studies have shown that exercising in middle age leads to better physical ability later in life.
Nutrition and recovery:
Proper nutrition is at least as important to health as exercise. When exercising, it becomes even more important to have a good diet to ensure
that the body has the correct ratio of macronutrients whilst providing ample micronutrients, in order to aid the body with the recovery
process following strenuous exercise.
Proper rest and recovery are also as important to health as exercise; otherwise the body exists in a permanently injured state and will
not improve or adapt adequately to the exercise. Hence, it is important to remember to allow adequate recovery between exercise sessions.
The above two factors can be compromised by psychological compulsions (eating disorders such as exercise bulimia, anorexia, and other
bulimias), misinformation, a lack of organization, or a lack of motivation. These all lead to a decreased state of health.
Delayed onset muscle soreness can occur after any kind of exercise, particularly if the body is in an unconditioned state relative to that exercise.