You've probably heard it a million times. Regular exercise can help reduce your risks of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. It may help boost your mood and your energy levels and reduce stress. Exercise, along with sensible nutrition, is important for losing and maintaining weight. And yet, it can be hard to figure out how to get started or fit it in.
Everyone's game plan may be different. Some people may want to take an exercise class three times a week or join an organized sports team. For others, it might be finding ways to sneak in a few minutes of activity throughout the day.
It's OK to start slowly. You should aim to be active for at least 30 minutes most days or a total of 2 1/2 hours per week. But you can break your activity up into 10-minute chunks and still reap health benefits. Just be sure it's moderately-intense aerobic activity. And don't forget muscle-strengthening activities. Aim to do exercises that hit the major muscle groups at least two days a week. Pick activities that you enjoy!
Keep in mind, if you are physically inactive or have a chronic health condition such as arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. He or she can tell you what types and amounts of activities are safe and suitable for you.
Here are some tips for fitting in fitness:
Add steps to your day. Park farther away from the entrance or get off the bus one stop earlier. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk around during your kids' sports practices and games.
Find a workout buddy. Exercising with a friend can be more fun and a good motivator. Ask a co-worker to go for a walk during lunch or see if a neighbor wants to shoot hoops. It is harder to skip if you know someone is counting on you.
Keep exercise clothes at work. You can change into them before heading home or to the gym. And have a comfortable pair of athletic shoes and socks handy so you can walk during your coffee or lunch breaks.
Schedule your fitness activities. If you put exercise on your calendar like other appointments, you're more likely to do it.
Acknowledge your successes. Keep a log of all the times you make a healthy choice to move more, such as taking the stairs instead of an elevator. Or track the amount and frequency of your activities. Reward yourself with a new pair of sneakers or a cool new water bottle when you meet a goal.
Try some new moves. Check out fitness DVDs from your library or choose a video from a reputable online source like the American Council on Exercise. There are many 10-minute workouts out there.
Move while you watch TV. Be active during commercials. Try getting up off the couch and marching in place for 60 seconds.
Play games with your kids. Don't just watch while your kids play outside — join in their fun. Play tag or just toss a ball back and forth. If your kids love video games, think about swapping their favorite game for an active one in which the user must move his or her body to play. The whole family will break a sweat by dancing, following an exercise routine or virtually competing in sports.
Clean up. Both housework and doing work in the yard can count as physical activity, too. Rake and bag your leaves. Scrub your kitchen floor. Push the lawn mower.
After you've built short periods of activity into your day, think about times when you could lengthen each burst by a few minutes. The key is to start small and ramp up gradually. If your fitness level allows, you can also increase the intensity of your activity, even if you don't increase the time.
Even when you're worn out from a busy day, try to make time for fitness. You likely will feel energized afterward. And remind yourself that every bit counts!
Created on 08/23/2007
Updated on 03/07/2013
- United States Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 physical activity guidelines for Americans.
- United States Department of Agriculture ChooseMyPlate.gov. Tips for increasing physical activity.
- Weight-control Information Network. Tips to help you get active.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical activity for a healthy weight.