Tip #4: Be active
Get moving! You have probably heard again and again that increasing your physical activity has many health benefits. Well, let’s hear it again… increasing your physical activity has many health benefits.
Exercising does not only improve your chances of living longer and healthier but also helps protect you from developing heart disease and stroke or what comes before those…high blood pressure and elevated blood lipid levels (triglycerides and cholesterol). In addition, being active decreases the risk of certain cancers (colon and breast cancer).
It also helps prevent type 2 diabetes or regulate your blood sugar levels if you already have diabetes. Strength training allows you to prevent osteoporosis (the loss of bone mass). In addition, maybe my favorite reason – it improves your mood and relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety. Not convinced yet? Wait, there’s more! Having a regular exercise routine helps prevent weight gain and/or promotes weight loss or maintenance of that weight you lost! (don’t forget about your healthy eating though). To top it off, it improves sleep.
How do you get started? To find an activity you like, you have to try them out. Will you sweat? Hopefully! Will you get tired? Most likely. Will your heart rate go up? It better! Will it benefit you? I promise it will. Finding something you enjoy doing is the first step. Once you have one or more activities you are willing to do, the goal of staying consistent will be a lot easier! Now, let’s be honest, there are times when I try to talk myself out of my pre-planned exercise and I doubt I am the only one. I can name more than a hundred reasons for “rescheduling”, but I can also name many more why not to.
The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend healthy adults to get a minimum of 2 ½ hours (150 minutes) per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, or a minimum of 1 ¼ hours (75 minutes) per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or a combination of the two. Aerobic physical activity is any activity that causes a noticeable increase in your heart rate (you do have to work for it!). The great thing is that you can spread your activity throughout the week and even break it into small segments throughout the day. For the activity to count you have to do it for 10 consecutive minutes. Once you improve your fitness level you can combine moderate and intense activity exercise by doing these on alternating days. There is also much benefit in including muscle-strengthening activities at least a couple of times/week. These are only guidelines and is not an upper limit. With time, you may realize you can do more or want to do more – either longer workouts or harder - the benefits to your health will also increase. The amount of exercise you need varies from person to person. It is affected by your genes, your diet, your body composition of muscle and fat as well as your fitness level and capacity for exercise.
No one is expecting you to start running 60 minutes a day if you are not walking consistently or riding your bike 5 days a week, if you haven’t in months. Start easy and include shorter and less intense activities. You can build on duration and intensity gradually. Check with your doctor and make sure it is okay for you to start an exercise regimen. Talk with your friends and find out how they stay active. Even better yet, ask if you can join them - one class, walk or bike ride will give you an idea of what to expect. You can also look into community groups (I met my running friends on meetup.com) and find a group that meets regularly to be active together. Don’t feel like having company yet? No problem! You can go solo. Having a person or group will just give you (and them) a little extra accountability if you tend to have excuses more often than not.
For children the goal is at least 1 hour or more a day of physical activity in activities that are age-appropriate. Active play is the key with little ones! Turn the radio on and let them play the freeze dance or chase each other around for a game of tag. Kick a ball, march around the house like soldiers, jump rope, skip, ride bikes, the possibilities are endless.
To make it even better, include your family in the fun! Choose activities that everyone can enjoy. Assign at least one day per week in which you can be active together. Go to the park, fly kites, hike a new trail, walk around the city, go to a trampoline gym, walk/jog a 5K or try rock-climbing. It is an amazing opportunity for that much needed “together time”.
I have always exercised some but over the past few years I have truly discovered a love for staying active and find new and fun ways to do so. This has not only allowed me to maintain a healthy weight but also has increased my energy, improved my productivity and time management, boosted my self-esteem, and given me that much needed “me time”!
Over the years I have tried many forms of exercise…you name it, I probably have given it a try! Some of those were just not for me - like those fun STEP classes that I am just not that coordinated for or the aquatic bootcamp (in which all I could think was “When is this over?”. On the other hand, there were others which became love at first try! Running, Zumba, Bikram Yoga and Camp Gladiator are part of my routine. Some I tried because friends invited me to, others I was just curious about. I have to tell you, I am not “good” at any of these, but I do them the best I can and enjoy it!
My daughter Victoria and I at her first race!
Exercise is one of those things that actually challenges the “too good to be true” phrase. Incorporating physical activity in your daily routine provides immediate benefit to your body and health. Any activity is better than none. It is more than just focusing on that “exercise time” (walking, dancing, jogging, climbing stairs, doing aerobic videos), it is about increasing your activity in your day-to-day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car a little further from an entrance, ride your bike to the park instead of driving, walk around the house while talking on the phone, etc. Get moving! The goal is to decrease the time you spend sitting down or being sedentary. There are great tools for this. Think about investing on a pedometer or step-tracker. At the end of last year I got a FitBit. I love it! It has allowed me to track my activity and increased my awareness of my most sedentary times and days. I have set new goals and have fun trying to reach them.
That saying “The only workout you will regret is the one that didn’t happen” is so true. Today is the day! Find what you like to do. Consider finding a “buddy” that will enjoy being active with you and will keep you motivated. Schedule a time of day that is best for you – think about it as a meeting with your health! Let go of the excuses. Make it fun. Soon it will be part of your routine.
March is National Nutrition Month! We have committed to do 14 blog posts that tackle an important topic in food and nutrition. To see all the posts we have done including some from previous years, click on “National Nutrition Month” under blog category.