An effective exercise program needs to be fun and keep you motivated. It helps to have a goal.
Your goal might be to:
- Manage a health condition
- Reduce stress
- Improve your stamina
- Buy clothes in a smaller size
Your exercise program can also be a good way for you to socialize. Taking exercise classes or exercising with a friend are both good ways to be social.
You may have a hard time starting an exercise routine, but once you do start, you may begin to notice other benefits, such as:
- Better control of your weight and appetite
- Improved fitness, making it easier to do everyday activities
- Improved sleep
- More confidence in yourself
- Lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure
You do not need to join a gym to exercise. If you have not exercised or been active in a long time, start slowly to prevent injuries. Taking a brisk 10-minute walk twice a week is a good start.
Try joining a dance, yoga, or karate class if it appeals to you. You could also join a baseball or bowling team, or even a mall-walking group. The social aspects of these groups can be rewarding and motivating.
The most important thing is to do exercises that you can maintain and enjoy.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Talk with your health care provider before starting an exercise program if:
- You have diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or another long-term illness
- You are obese
- You have not been very active lately
- You get chest pains or shortness of breath when you are active
Build physical activity into your regular routine
Simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference over time.
- At work, try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking down the hall to talk with a co-worker instead of sending an email, or adding a 10- to 20-minute walk during lunch.
- When you are running errands, try parking at the far end of the parking lot or down the street. Even better, walk to the store or other nearby places.
- At home, do chores such as vacuuming, washing the car, gardening, raking leaves, or shoveling snow.
- If you ride the bus or other public transportation, get off 1 stop before your usual stop and walk the rest of the way.
REDUCE YOUR SCREEN TIME
Sedentary behaviors are things you do while you are sitting still. Decreasing your sedentary behaviors can help you lose weight. For most people, the best way to decrease sedentary behaviors is to reduce the time they spend watching TV and using a computer and other electronic devices. All of these activities are called "screen time."
Some ways to decrease screen time are:
- Choose 1 or 2 TV programs to watch, and turn off the TV when they are over.
- Do not keep the TV on all the time for background noise -- you might end up sitting down and watching it. Turn on the radio instead. You can be up doing things around the house and still listen to the radio.
- Do not eat while you watch TV.
- Take the batteries out of your TV remote control and get up to change the channel.
- Before you turn on the TV, take your dog or a neighbor's dog for a walk. If you are going to miss your favorite show, record it.
- Find activities to replace TV watching. Read a book, play a board game with family or friends, or take an evening cooking class.
- Work out on an exercise or yoga ball while you watch TV. You will burn calories. Or, set up a stationary bike or treadmill in front of your TV and use it while you watch.
If you like playing video games, try games that require you to move your whole body, not just your thumbs.
HOW MUCH EXERCISE DO YOU NEED?
Aim to exercise about 2.5 hours a week. It's important to do both moderate-intensity aerobic activity that increases your heart rate and muscle strengthening. Muscle strengthening, also called strength training, resistance training, or endurance exercise, should be done 2 times a week. Depending on your schedule, you could exercise for 30 minutes 5 days a week, or 45 to 60 minutes 3 days a week.
You do not have to do your total daily exercise all at once. If your goal is to exercise for 30 minutes, you can break that up into shorter time periods that add up to 30 minutes.
As you become more fit, you can challenge yourself by increasing the intensity of your exercise by going from light to moderate activity. You can also increase the amount of time you exercise.
Fitness Facts and Fiction
Which of the following is a benefit of regular exercise?
- A. Better control of your weight and appetite
- B. Better fitness, so it’s easier to do everyday activities
- C. Better sleep
- D. Less stress and anxiety
- E. Lower risk for heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure
- F. All of the above
The correct answer is all of the above. Getting regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body, mind, and spirit. Exercise helps your body work better. It can also make you look better, feel better, and even live longer.
How much daily exercise do children need?
- A. 15 minutes
- B. 30 minutes
- C. 45 minutes
- A. 60 minutes
The correct answer is 60 minutes. Even children who prefer staying inside and playing video games can learn to be active during the day. They can ride their bike to school, play active computer games, or help out with chores around the house.
Kids are more likely to exercise if their parents are active too.
- A. Fact
- B. Fiction
The correct answer is fact. When you are active, your child will be too. Take walks before dinner, play hoops, or throw a baseball. Encourage your child to join a sports team. Some kids prefer team sports like soccer, and others prefer sports like swimming or tennis. Let your child choose.
Regular exercise is good for your bones.
- A. Fact
- B. Fiction
The correct answer is fact. Doing exercises that put weight on your bones will help keep them strong and lower your risk of bone loss and breaks as you get older. Walking and strength training are good options. If you are older, haven't been active, or have a health problem, talk with your doctor before starting to exercise.
Exercise can help you fight infections by:
- A. Making you more confident
- B. Making immune system stronger
- C. Making you feel like nothing can hurt you
The correct answer is making your immune system stronger. Exercise helps your immune system fight off infections from bacteria and viruses. It also lowers your risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer.
Weight or strength training can build muscle and improve strength at any age.
- A. Fact
- B. Fiction
The correct answer is fact. Doing weight or strength training will build your muscles and make you stronger. Even older adults can gain strength from these exercises. Use weights, resistance bands, or machines at a gym. Start slow, and work up to two 30-minute sessions every week.
This is an important part of an exercise program:
- A. Warming up and cooling down
- B. Choosing the right gym
- C. Push-ups and sit-ups
- D. Stretching
- E. A and D
The correct answer is warming up and cooling down and stretching. Warm up your muscles and joints with gentle, full-body movements for 5 to 10 minutes before exercising. This can help prevent injury. Cool down by walking slowly then stretching muscles to help prevent muscle strains after exercise.
Some exercises can make you less likely to fall.
- A. Fact
- B. Fiction
The correct answer is fact. Exercises that improve balance make you stronger, more flexible, and increase how long you can be active. One simple example is to stand on one foot while waiting in line. Or sit down and stand up without using your hands. Tai Chi and yoga can also help you develop balance.
Which of the following can help prevent sports injuries?
- A. Wearing safety gear
- B. Cross-training
- C. Slowly increasing how long and how hard you exercise
- D. Warming up and cooling down
- E. All of the above
The correct answer is all of the above. But if you do get hurt, stop playing. Never try to “work through” the pain because this can cause more damage. Minor aches and pains you can treat yourself at home. More serious injuries should be treated by a doctor right away.
Some people just don’t have time to be physically active.
- A. Fact
- B. Fiction
The correct answer is fiction. Being more active takes effort, but it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Break 30 minutes into three 10-minute sessions and work it into your schedule. Plan to exercise during the time of day you like best, before work, at lunch, or in the evening. Or, build it into your commute. Find what works best for you.