Chances are good that at least once a year—in January, perhaps?—you vow to commit to an exercise program. If you've had some trouble with the follow-through, you're certainly in good company. Yet there are so many compelling reasons to make the commitment again and stick with it.
Everyone has a different reason for losing momentum. The bottom line is that if getting fit is important to you, you can do it in less time than it takes to watch the nightly news. In fact, you can do it while you watch the news. If you follow the recommendations of organizations such as the American Council on Exercise and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), what you need to improve your heart health (and reduce your risk of all kinds of other diseases) is a total of 150 minutes of exercise per week. You can break it down however you want.
So start today, and use these tips to help you make exercise part of your routine.
1. Set a SMART goal.
In fitness parlance, a SMART goal is one that is Specific, Measurable, and Attainable, and it's one that you can Reward yourself for meeting as long as you meet it within a certain Time. Meeting goals is satisfying, and fitness experts say it helps build momentum. Just pay close attention to the "attainable" part of this equation because an unrealistic goal only sets you up to fail. Instead of challenging yourself to exercise daily for 30 minutes when on some days you can't even get in 15, look at your schedule, and find two days that you can realistically boost your workout time to 30 minutes. It all adds up to get you toward your goal of 150 for the week.
2. Vow to take more steps every day.
For nearly a decade, public health experts at the CDC have urged Americans to take 10,000 steps every day. But we're falling short. A typical American woman takes just 5,210 steps a day, and a man takes around 7,000. Incidentally, the 10,000 mark comes out to about five miles a day, and people who walk that much are considered "active." Those who get in 12,500 steps a day are "highly active."
Even if weight loss isn't your goal, you should still aim to increase your daily mileage to maintain general health. In a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers asked healthy young men to significantly reduce the number of steps they took each day (dropping from an average of 6,203 to 1,344 steps a day). Within two weeks the subjects' insulin levels rose by nearly 60 percent—putting them at risk for diabetes—and their amounts of abdominal fat increased by 7 percent even though they hadn't gained any overall weight.