Exercise: 4 Tips for Getting Started
One thing we all have in common, regardless of age or health, is the need to move. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), adults need 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking), ideally spread out over the entire week. Both aerobic activity (for example, walking or running) and muscle-strengthening activity (like lifting weights) are beneficial. Regular exercise promotes better blood glucose control, and there is now solid evidence that it lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, falls, depression, and early death while boosting energy levels, mental functioning, and sense of well-being. It's also clear that the opposite is true: Physical inactivity results in poor health.
A few tips for getting going:
Start low and go slow. Setting ambitious exercise goals is fine, but take things slowly at first to avoid injury. Walking 30 to 45 minutes per day is great, but if you aren't accustomed to walking regularly, begin with 5 to 10 minutes daily and gradually increase your walking time until you reach your goal.
Take a friend. A buddy can encourage you on days when you're finding reasons not to exercise, and you can hold each other accountable for sticking with the program. A little friendly competition in terms of minutes exercised or amount of weight lost can help keep things interesting.
Make it a habit. Working exercise into a busy schedule is much easier and more sustainable if you attach your chosen activities to something you're already doing. If you take a lunch hour, for instance, cut it down to 30 or 45 minutes and walk for the remaining time instead of trying to carve out a new time slot. If your workplace has on-site exercise facilities or places to walk outside, you're in luck—no need to go out of your way to get your exercise in! If you live near a mall, join the many others who are already putting their walking shoes on and tooling around inside, where it's safe and out of the weather.
Have fun. If your activity or exercise routine is drudgery, you won't be doing it for long. Put that treadmill in front of a television and watch your favorite videos while you're exercising. If the treadmill bores you to tears, find another way to get the workout you need.
One thing is clear: No one should stay on the couch. Virtually everyone can find safe and enjoyable ways to increase activity levels, from simple things like chair exercises and walking to competitive sports. (As always, you should check with your doctor before making big changes to an exercise plan.) A wealth of additional information about physical activity can be found on the HHS Web site. So for those of you who need more activity (and you know who you are!), get active. In no time at all, you won't know how you lived without it.