Guarantees are hard to come by these days. Here's something you can count on: If you are physically active, you'll reap exciting physical and emotional benefits.
Physical activity does great things for your body even if you don't see a shrinking waistline or rippling muscles right away. Even moderate activity lowers your risk for diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. It also helps you reach and maintain a healthy weight. However, physically active people report another powerful motivator that may surprise you.
A sense of well-being
Active people often report an immediate sense of wellbeing after exercising. They remain motivated to participate in physical activity because it increases their confidence and energy levels. They are more relaxed. They sleep better. They experience sharper memories and thinking. And most of them do not spend hours in the gym or weekends training for a marathon.
Physical activity makes you feel better right away and fights off disease over time. Yet, nearly 80 percent of adult Americans don't get enough exercise. Everyone has their own reasons why they aren't physically active. Some of those reasons may include old stereotypes that exercise is demanding, painful and costly. The truth is exercise doesn't have to hurt to be beneficial. And it doesn't have to take place in a gym or take hours every day.
First, talk to your doctor to make sure it's safe for you to exercise. Start slowly and gradually build up the intensity of your activity. You don't need to do a day's worth of exercise all at once. Don't have enough time for a 30 minute walk? Instead, break it down into two or three 10- or 15-minute brisk walks. Walk the dog in the morning. Take a quick stroll during your lunch break and after dinner.
Make sure the activity lasts for a full 10 minutes and is performed at a moderate intensity level. Exercising at a moderate intensity level means you are breathing a little heavier, you can still chat, but singing is hard. You will feel warm but not very sweaty or overheated.
Do what you like
It is easier to stay active if you are doing things you enjoy. Here are some easy ways to add short bouts of activity to your lifestyle:
- Join a friend for a lunchtime walk
- Digging, weeding and mulching your garden can add great activity to your day
- Visit a local park for walking, biking, paddling or rowing
- Wash and wax the car
- Scrub your floors or windows
- Take a dance class
- Skip the elevator and take the stairs
- Bike for fun, to run errands or to go to work
- Go for a swim
- Mow the lawn with a push mower
- Leave your car at the end of the lot and walk to the office or store
Some is better than none
Keep in mind that some physical activity is better than none. Whatever your starting point, the fact that you're becoming more active will automatically help your health and your sense of well-being.
Note: If you are physically inactive or you have a health condition such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, pregnancy or other symptoms, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program or increasing your activity level. He or she can tell you what types and amounts of activities are safe and suitable for you.
Jenilee Matz, M.P.H., contributed to this article.
Created on 11/11/2004
Updated on 09/26/2013
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical activity and health.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Guide to physical activity.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do adults need?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exercise or physical activity.