Studies found that being chronically sedentary means we are twice as likely to die prematurely, and almost three times as likely to die prematurely from cardiovascular disease. One study found that 35 chronic diseases could likely be prevented by being physically active. This doesn’t mean we have to spend hours a day in the gym or train for a triathlon — it simply means that we need to spend less time sitting and more time moving.
If you’ve exercised regularly at some point in your life, you probably remember that you felt better, had more energy and likely weighed less (even if you’re not overweight, a lack of exercise can shorten your life). Some event or series of circumstances such as work, children or illness killed your motivation to get moving. If you’ve never exercised regularly, you may think it won’t do any good at this point. You’d be wrong, as proven by recent research. Increasing your physical activity even a little can improve your health and reduce your mortality risk. Here are eight tips to help you become more physically active.
Think back over your childhood and younger years and see if there was an activity you enjoyed — riding your bike, playing soccer, rollerblading, tennis, hula hooping, dancing, swimming, kayaking, etc. Now think about how you could start doing that favorite activity again or find something similar. For example, if you enjoyed a team sport, could you join a community league? If you enjoyed dancing, check out a ballroom dancing or a rhumba class. You’re far more likely to stick with it if it’s something you enjoy.
You might feel intimidated to join a gym or go to an exercise class because you think everyone else is going to be thinner, stronger, faster, etc. — or you don’t want to be seen in exercise clothes. Now is the time to put your health and well-being above all other concerns and not worry about what others think. In all likelihood, others around you are focused on their own fitness goals and may admire you for trying to achieve your own. Many community centers offer beginner classes that might not feel as intimidating. You can also book a session with a personal trainer to have them show you how to use gym equipment (some gyms offer a complimentary training session). If you’re not ready to exercise around others, you can take walks, ride your bike or workout with fitness videos or equipment at home.
This means literally and metaphorically — not all fitness classes are the same, nor are all gyms. You might find you don’t like a spinning class at one facility, but you can tolerate one at another. The same also applies to activities — if you try one and it isn’t a good fit, think about what you didn’t like and try another. It may take several tries to find something that works.
One of the mistakes many beginner exercisers make is setting unrealistic goals. Don’t set yourself up for failure by saying you’ll get up at 5 a.m. every single day and exercise. Figure out which time of day you’ll be most likely to fit in 20 or 30 minutes of exercise. For some, it’s early morning or evening, but for others, taking a walk during lunch is the most doable. If you can’t find a 30-minute chunk of time, walk twice for 15 minutes — as long as your activity lasts at least 10 minutes, it counts as exercise. Also, understand that you’re probably not going to enjoy the first few tries — but don’t let that kill your motivation. Even if you can only do five minutes the first few times, you’ll be able to add more minutes each week. It also takes time to establish a new habit,so again, don’t give up.
This is probably themost important piece of advice you’ll ever get. Try not to think of exercise as yet another commitment in your busy schedule. Instead, look for ways to sit less and move more. You’ve likely heard you should take the stairs instead of the elevator. Here are more easy ways to add moderate physical activity into your day:
Enlist a friend, colleague or neighbor to join you and help keep you motivated. Many shopping malls have mall walking clubs and programs, which are great for year-round fitness. A little competition can help us stay motivated too, so start a walking competition at work or with friends. If getting others involved isn’t feasible, you can also join online support groups who will help you stay motivated. If you’re up for the responsibility of dog ownership, these furry companions need daily walks — and sometimes if we won’t do something for ourselves, we will do it for those who depend on us.
Research has shown that tracking our activity can help us stay motivated. Many of us set a goal of 10,000 steps per day — but you can set a goal for whatever you think is reasonable. Adjust it as you build up more stamina. You can tell by a single glance how well you’re doing each day. If you see you’re close to hitting your goal, you might feel motivated to walk around the block instead of heading for the couch.
Mowing your lawn, trimming hedges, pulling weeds, raking leaves, using a snowblower, spreading mulch — all count as physical activity. The same goes for housework — vacuuming, mopping, dusting, carrying loads of laundry and cleaning windowsall burn more energy than sitting.
It can feel daunting to start exercising, but you might be surprised to find how easy it is to find ways to sit less and move more. You don’t have to keep up with others and can work at your own pace. Try to think of what will motivate you — a picture of someone you love such as your child or grandchild, or your dog eagerly anticipating a walk can do wonders to help us when we feel like giving up. And don’t beat yourself up if you miss a few days or weeks — just try to get back on track. Be sure to check with your doctor before you start an exercise routine. Remember, it’s never too late to improve your health!