We all know that exercise is good for us. In fact, research shows that regular exercise can add as many as five years to your life. It can help you:
- Reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes and some cancers
- Maintain strong bones
- Lower your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- Keep a healthy weight as you age
- Reduce stress
- Sleep better
- Fight off depression and mood swings
A recent study found that nearly 80% of adult Americans do not get the recommended amounts of exercise each week. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way. Remember recess? Running, jumping, playing games, enjoying the fresh air… You were exercising, but you were also having fun. If you want to be physically active again, take a lesson from your 8-year-old self: find activities you enjoy.
Here are some things to consider when selecting your exercise:
- Know what you’re good at. If you have two left feet, you may not want to sign up for dance classes. But if you’ve always had strong arms, you might consider kayaking.
- Think like a kid again. If it’s been awhile since you exercised, think back to the activities you loved as a teenager. If you ran track, you might try running, biking or brisk walking. If you were on the basketball team, go shoot some hoops. If you used to be a cheerleader, sign up for a dance or kickboxing class.
- Remember your goal. Match your exercise to what you’re hoping to accomplish. If you want to strengthen your heart, think aerobic activities. Fighting osteoporosis? Consider weight-bearing or resistance exercises.
- Stay off the treadmill (if you choose!). Exercising can be as simple as a brisk walk through the neighborhood, low-impact water aerobics, or golf. You don’t have to spend hours on the treadmill or train for a marathon to get the benefits of physical activity.
- Don’t over commit your time. Be realistic about the amount of time you can spend exercising. If you only have 30 minutes a day to spare, don’t sign up for a 90-minute exercise class thinking you’ll somehow “find” the time. Instead, find an exercise that takes less time and commit to it. Don’t set yourself up for failure.
- Keep it simple (and affordable). Hate the gym? Instead of using the gym’s weight machines to do strength training, you can get virtually the same results doing sit-ups, push-ups and leg lifts on your living room floor. Add a few dumbbells, resistance bands and an exercise ball and your home gym is complete.
Remember your options for exercise are limitless. Your workout doesn’t have to include the traditional cardio/weight package. Hike a few trails. Join a softball league. Go dancing. Hit tennis balls against a wall. Take up fencing. Rollerblade around the park. Play volleyball or badminton. The important thing is to choose an activity you’ll enjoy and get moving! If you don’t like it after a few weeks, try a different activity. Keep trying new things until you find something you love.
Once you’ve picked your exercise, it’s important to figure out ways to stick with it. Here are 7 ways to make exercise more fun:
- Start slowly. Begin small and work up from there. Even just 10 or 15 minutes a day is great starting point if you’ll actually do it! Once you build up a little confidence, you can go longer. If you overdo it in the beginning, it’s too easy to quit or get injured.
- TV, audiobooks, podcasts. Many podcasts can be downloaded for free, and audiobooks let you catch up on your “reading” while you work out. Prefer TV? Looking forward to the next episode of a streaming TV series is a great incentive to exercise.
- Try an app. Use one of the many fitness apps available to help plan and complete your workouts. Apps are available for everything from running and weight loss to strength training and yoga.
- Buddy up. As a friend to be your workout partner. Be sure and choose someone who’s fun to be with. That way, you’ll look forward to exercising just so you can spend time with your friend.
- Customize a playlist. Choose tunes that will keep you moving and motivated! Be sure to hit “random” and create new lists from tiem to time so you don’t get bored with your workout music.
- Mix things up. To avoid getting in a rut, change your exercise routine periodically. If you lift weights, switch the order of your workout. If you run outside, reverse your route. You’ll still be going the same distance, but everything will look new and different.
- Take a class. Group classes are a great way to commit to regular exercise. The instructor can help you maintain the proper form, and you’ll have a chance