Does the thought of being active with exercise conjure up feelings of anxiety, dread or excitement – or maybe something in between?
No matter what your level of fitness is right now, you can find an easy solution that truly works for you. Hint: This does not mean you have to spend hours at the gym. Thank goodness, right?
In a nutshell, exercise helps us move better, look better, feel better and age better.
Which one of these things is most important to you? Do you want to age more gracefully and have the energy to keep up with your kids or grandkids? Do you want to look better, or is it more about feeling comfortable in your own skin perhaps?
Whatever your reason, active exercise can have such a dramatic effect on your energy level, as well as how we look and feel.
Increasing activity may help you live longer and protect you from developing serious health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer.
Regular physical activity is linked to many health benefits, such as,
- lower blood pressure and blood glucose, or blood sugar
- healthy bones, muscles, and joints
- a strong heart and lungs
- better sleep at night and improved mood
All these benefits will have you feeling better with more energy to do the things important to you.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans define regular physical activity as at least 2½ hours a week of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking. A pace of 3 miles per hour or faster is considered brisk walking. A moderate-intensity activity makes you breathe harder but does not overwork or overheat you.
If active exercise is not currently a regular part of your life start slow. Begin with just 5-10 minutes of daily activity and work up to 30 minutes a day at least five days per week. If you cannot do 30 minutes at one time during the day, break it up into two 15 minute sessions or even three 10 minute sessions. Do even more activity, and you may gain even more health benefits.
When combined with healthy eating, regular physical activity may also help you lose and control your weight. However, research shows that even if you don’t lose weight, you can still enjoy significant health benefits from regular active physical movement.
Physical activity also can be a lot of fun if you do activities you enjoy and are active with other people. Make it play. Being active with others may give you a chance to meet new people or spend more time with family and friends. You also may inspire and motivate one another to get and stay active.
It’s so important to find activities you enjoy – walking, jogging, cycling, Crossfit, hiking, yoga, soccer, rock climbing, swimming, golf, the options go on and on. Participating in something you find enjoyable will keep you going back for more.
10 Tips for Being Active
You’ve probably seen many of these before and just glossed over them. I urge you not to do that this time, but to utilize what you can instead. Make you and your health a priority!
1. Schedule the time. Make an appointment with yourself and write your workout in your schedule. Set a reminder on your phone or in your calendar app. Give exercise the importance it deserves.
2. Measure the benefits. Remind yourself that taking a 30-minute walk can increase your energy level throughout the day, increase productivity, reduce stress and boost your mood. Isn’t that worth a half-hour less tv or computer time?
3. Be prepared. Layout or pack your exercise clothes the night before to exercise first thing in the morning or right after work.
4. Blend it in. Incorporate exercise into your daily activities or habits. Walk the dog? Pick up the pace a notch and extend the walk to 20-30 minutes. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park the car at the far end of the parking lot and walk. Use any way you can to increase your daily activity level. It all adds up!
5. Get active with family and friends. Participate in a parent-child swim or gymnastics class; go to the park and make an obstacle course for you and your kids in the playground; make a date with your spouse to take short after-dinner strolls; join a co-worker for a brisk walk during lunch.
6. Set limits. Don’t log into social media, turn on the tv, or play your favorite after-work video game until after you’ve completed your workout for the day.
7. “Hire” a coach. A good way to ensure your success as a regular exercise participant is to assign or hire someone to be your personal fitness “coach.” This person could be your spouse, co-worker, a close friend, sibling, or professional —someone who will understand your weekly fitness goals and who can nix any excuse you come up with for not achieving them. Your coach’s duties include checking in with you several times a week to see how you’re doing. If you miss a workout, the coach can be understanding but should insist on a scheduled make-up session.
8. Be flexible. When your favorite exercise bike is occupied at the gym, jump onto a treadmill or a rower, or start your weight training and return to the bike later. Think about trying a new piece of equipment or activity to spice up your normal routine. Can’t make it to the gym, prefer to workout at home, or traveling? Go old school with push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, jump ropes, etc.
9. Build in incentives. A month of increasing activity can equal a new outfit, an upgrade in equipment, a massage, a half-hour with a personal trainer, a yoga class, or a fancy pair of cross-trainers.
10. Balance. There is a fine line between a firm commitment to exercise and a rigid compulsion about keeping to a pre-determined workout schedule. Develop a balanced, healthy attitude about your exercise program – making it part of your life, not your entire life.
Remember to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water. If you exercise for an hour a day, you lose 20 percent more fluid than you would if you just sat still and it’s even higher on hot, summer days. Dehydration can cause headaches, diarrhea, muscle cramps, and exhaustion, and water is the best (no-fat, no-calorie) way to hydrate. Use lemons or limes in your water for variety and extra benefits.
Make It Happen
The best overall way to stick to a new routine is just to decide that it’s going to happen! Then make sure you schedule it in your day to allow it to happen and establish it as a habit. Make increasing activity a top priority or you.
Habit stacking is another great way to sneak extra movement into your day. What is habit stacking? It’s performing a new activity, which you want to make into a daily habit, after an already established daily practice.
For example, say you want to implement a daily 5 – 10-minute stretching routine in the morning. Start performing the routine after your morning shower to increase the likelihood of making it a habit. Years ago I added performing body weight squats during my nightly teeth brushing routine, and the habit stuck.
I hope you decide to make it happen today. One step at a time. Need accountability? Please reach out; I’d be happy to help.
You’ve got this!