Your first question is probably: “What in the heck is ‘PA’?” In research publications, for simplicity, PA stands for physical activity. PA isn’t necessarily the same as “exercise.” Think of exercise as a dedicated bout of movement (for example: going for a run, a workout at the gym, or taking a spin class). PA includes all the movement you get throughout the course of your day, which might include how many total steps you take, using the stairs instead of the escalator, gardening or doing housework, or actually walking down the hall to interact with a colleague instead of sending an email. Your health is impacted by your total PA, not just by your exercise.

Now, your second question is likely, “What in the heck do you mean by ‘rebalancing my PA portfolio’?”

I’m by no means a financial planner, but I do know when it comes to investments, we’re usually encouraged not to “put all our eggs in one basket.” Depending on a number of factors, including age, income, risk tolerance, etc., the experts recommend we spread our money around (i.e. put some in mutual funds, some in real estate, maybe pick a few individual stocks, as well as keep a reserve in cash for emergencies). By diversifying, we limit our risk and increase the odds of growing our investments.

Well, from a health standpoint, I recommend the same philosophy. When it comes to PA and exercise, don’t put all your energy into just one category — spread it around! Depending on several factors, including age, knowledge, and current fitness level, we should intentionally allocate our efforts to maximize an ROI. What someone does in their 20s or 30s isn’t necessarily what they should be doing in their 40s, 50s, or 60s. We should always be mindful of the research-based recommendations regarding aerobic exercise (cardiovascular/endurance), anaerobic exercise (weights/strength training), and flexibility (stretching)…and then balance our “PA portfolio” accordingly.

As Dr. Tim Church, our Chief Medical Officer, often points out, we usually like to do the things we do well. People who are naturally gifted runners often like to run. If you’ve always been strong and are built like a bull, then the odds are you enjoy hanging out in the weight room. That makes sense, but I caution, don’t put all your eggs in one basket! Don’t be a one trick pony. Mix it up! In order to maximize your health and your investment of time and effort, be mindful of developing a complete activity portfolio.

If you’re that person who ALWAYS does the same workout (and you know who you are), then break out of your comfort zone. Rather than routinely getting on the same treadmill at the same speed and incline for the exact same amount of time, I encourage you to maybe take a yoga or Pilates class, go for a bike ride, or hire a personal trainer to help you formulate a strength training routine (don’t worry ladies, you are not going to look like AH-nold!).

If every time you go to the gym you automatically head for the weight room to go through the same exact circuit you did in high school, then it’s time to add something new. When it comes to the benefits of physical activity and exercise — variety is the spice of life! During the course of the week, work on intentionally doing something for your heart and lungs (aerobic), your muscles (anaerobic), and your mobility/flexibility (mindful stretching).

In your 20s and 30s, most financial planners will recommend taking a more aggressive approach to investing because higher risk often results in higher returns. If an investment does go south, then you have plenty of “earning years” left to make up for it. As we get older, the common theme is to then be more conservative, to not risk losing the next egg.

Well, as you might have imagined, the same holds true for physical activity. When you’re young, you can be a bit more aggressive because you can recover faster. After about 40, though, the body isn’t nearly as forgiving. Keep this in mind, especially if you’re picking back up after years of being sedentary (yes guys, I’m speaking to you!). Activities, such as full-court basketball or CrossFit, make much more sense “for the youngsters” than for us “older folks.”

Bottom line: When it comes to physical activity, remember that variety is the spice of life. It keeps things fresh and offers a far greater return than sinking all of your resources into just one bucket. If you need help “balancing your PA portfolio,” don’t hesitate to enlist the help of a credentialed personal trainer. It might be the best investment you ever make.

Stay well!