Living an active life is important to staying healthy. Staying active helps to reduce your risk of conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Exercise has also been linked to improved mental health and cognitive function.
You don’t have to be a distance runner to improve your health. The most important thing is that you’re staying active. It helps to:
- give your heart a workout
- stay strong
- maintain a healthy weight
The trick to staying active is to find something you enjoy doing. For some, that means having a friend to exercise with. It doesn’t matter whether you’re going to the gym, walking around the block, dancing along to an aerobics DVD in private, or going out for a quiet bike ride — just get moving.
It can be hard to find your workout style. It can help to mix it up every once in a while. You may find that you like trying something new. Here are some simple strategies you can use to get active and stay active.
If you haven’t been active in several years, start out slow. Always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program, as there may be precautions you should take.
In general, you’ll want to start out with sessions of only five or 10 minutes. You can gradually increase the length of your sessions over time.
Your goal for physical activity should be 30 minutes each day. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, three 10-minute sessions are just as good as one longer session. For example, in one day you could do:
- 10 minutes of dancing before work
- a 10-minute walk around the parking lot at lunch
- a 10-minute walk around the neighborhood as soon as you get home
Of course, more exercise is fine! However, take precautions to avoid injuries, such as muscle strain. It’s better to work out a little less one day if it will help you do it again the next.
You don’t just need aerobic exercise. Resistance training or weight lifting is also important. This type of exercise helps strengthen your muscles and bones and improve your balance and coordination. This reduces your risk for osteoporosis. It also helps prevent injuries or falls.
Not sure how to get started? Hire a trainer for a one-time session. If you jot down the routine, you can refer to it later.
Keep reading: The importance of strength training for women »
Many gyms and community centers offer free classes with a monthly membership. Take advantage of those opportunities. You may get to experience some of the newest and hottest fitness trends. You never know what you might fall in love with next. Not up for the gym? Look at your local sports stores for outdoor group activities.
You can get a great workout at home for just pennies. Fitness DVDs are a great way to exercise, and many local libraries have copies you can borrow. Checking out different DVDs can be a great way to find new types of exercise you like.
Another option is to tune in to a fitness show broadcast on TV. Exercise classes of all different types are available on the internet for people of all different levels of fitness.
Other home-friendly workouts that require little or no special equipment include:
- walking or jogging
- jumping rope
- weight training with found objects (bags of beans, a heavy book, a water bottle)
- jumping jacks
Stretching after a workout should always be part of your routine. Stretching improves flexibility and range of motion. It may also cut your risk of injury or muscle cramps. Finally, stretching improves circulation throughout the body.
If you need guidance on the best ways to stretch, ask a trainer for a quick tutorial.
Staying active is one of the most important ingredients of a healthy life. This becomes particularly important as you age. You can be creative about fitting in your 30 minutes of activity a day. You can dance while you listen to the news, walk to the grocery store, or take a short walk after dinner. That’s all it takes!
If you’re unable to walk, you can still exercise. Try a chair exercise video, have someone help you with water aerobics in a pool, or play catch with someone from your chair. Throw in some strength training exercises to strengthen your bones and improve your balance, and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy lifestyle.
Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise regime to make sure that it’s appropriate for your current physical condition.