Did you know that over 50% of adults in the U.S. don't get regular physical exercise? Yep, so says the CDC. If you aren't exercising, I guess you can take some small comfort in knowing that you aren't alone. But better than that, get off your duff and do a little something!
The good news is that you don't have to train like an athlete - or even like a weekend warrior - to reap substantial health benefits. (Of course, if you are getting tons of exercise, don't let this stop you!) The Department of Health and Human Services reports that ANY FORM of physical activity, exercise or movement of the body uses energy and studies show that even a modest effort to improve physical activity can provide health benefits.
So, what are those health benefits? According to the Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health, pretty impressive stuff like protecting against type 2 diabetes, certain forms of cancer (such as colon), heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, weight gain, depression and anxiety. Not too shabby, huh? Physical activity can also contribute to greater self esteem and a healthier mental outlook. And you know those sluggish bowel issues that so many people have these days? Well, good muscle tone helps keep bowels working better, and exercise helps move digested food through your intestines, speeding transit time.
About now I bet you are itching to add more activity to your day, right? Here are a few very simple ways to get you started without feeling overwhelmed.
- Because taking that first step to get you going is often the hardest, get a friend involved! It's fun, you keep each other motivated and it helps you stay accountable.
- Pick something that you really truly enjoy: gardening, walking in nature, dancing, swimming, canoeing and even house cleaning!
- Begin at a comfortable level; increase your pace gradually and steadily. You'll find you start to feel really wonderful and your body actually craves the movement!
- Find a time that works best for you - could be after dinner or first thing in the morning or over your lunch break.
- Put on some dance music when doing household chores or cooking a meal. Dance around the house a bit, dance around the kitchen (carefully of course!); make it fun!
- Put some lively music on your iPod when walking the dog, cleaning the garage or taking a walk. Extra rhythm means extra movement!
- Going grocery shopping, to the mall, or simply to work? Whatever your destination, park your car a distance away and walk at a brisk pace to the entrance.
- Take the stairs whenever you can; go as slow as you need to build up your strength.
- Work at a desk all day? Take five-minute breaks whenever possible and go for a walk around the office. Not possible? If you have an hour for lunch, spend the first 20 minutes taking a brisk walk, and the other 40 minutes enjoying a delicious, healthy lunch.
- Break 30 minutes of exercise such as walking or riding a stationary bike into three 10-minute sessions during your day.
- Vary your routine: go for a walk one day, dance around the house the next day, and then take the stairs on the next day.
- Take a class that sounds fun - maybe water aerobics or a hiking club.
- Instead of taking the dog for a walk, let the dog take you. Keeping up with Rover keeps you on your toes and alert.
- Join the kids outside for some fun activities in the sun.
- If you have some exercise equipment at home, use it with your iPod, a magazine, a good book, or the T.V.
- Set short-term goals that are reasonable to achieve.
- If your office has a gym or you are already a member of one, consider hiring a personal trainer for a session or two. Keep it up, and hire that person once a month or once every two months to stay on track.
Remember that weight-bearing exercise is best for bone health. That means hiking, jogging, dancing, tennis, stair climbing and weight training. Also, when you exercise, your body burns extra glucose (blood sugar) to fuel your muscles. The greater your muscle mass, the more glucose your muscles will use, keeping your blood sugar lower. Both aerobic exercise and strength training are beneficial for keeping blood sugar levels balanced, critical for people with diabetes. Learn more
in this pdf about the connection between physical exercise and diabetes.
Remember that any amount of activity is better than none at all! Anybody, regardless of size or shape can reap the benefits of daily activity. Of course, if you are starting an exercise program, you should check with your health care provider for the best form of activity for your needs.
Got any fun tips for staying active? I'd love to hear what you're up to!