When combined with proper nutrition, regular exercise has a profound effect on our health. Physical activity has been proven to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and disorders that are related to lifestyle. Regular physical activity can improve blood glucose levels, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, decrease risk of heart disease, promote weight loss, improve brain function and enhance self-image. Your muscular health can have a profound impact on how well you age. And like muscle, bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. Although no amount of physical activity can stop the aging process, regular physical activity can improve your quality of life and independence as you age. It will also increase your ability to live a full, active life.
The U.S. Government’s Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days per week (for a total of 150 minutes). Muscle strengthening activity should also be added at least two days per week. The benefits of exercise have been clearly documented, but how can we find the time and motivation to incorporate an exercise program into our busy lives?
1. Clarify Your Fitness Goals
Just making the decision to take charge of your health and improve your fitness is a powerful first step. Take some time to reflect on the reasons you can benefit from including exercise in your weekly plan. Writing down your goals for physical fitness will enhance your motivation and personal accountability. Include the frequency and types of physical activity you will incorporate. These goals should be Specific (clear and easy to understand), Measurable (know how you will track your progress), Attainable (motivating, but not too difficult or extreme), Realistic (possible to achieve), and Time-bound (contain a specific endpoint or deadline). These are known as SMART goals.
2. Develop Consistency
To stay consistent in your exercise routines, establish a good time to exercise, mark it on your calendar and keep the appointment as scheduled. When time challenges come up, remind yourself that working out is a priority and stick to your appointment. Schedule in your different activities such as walking, yoga, dance class, stretching, and swimming. Choose a form of exercise that fits your lifestyle, personality and taste.
3. Find the Time
When something is really important in our lives, we find a way to fit it into our schedule. Some types of exercise can be combined with other tasks you are already doing. If you are running an errand at the mall, throw on your tennis shoes and add in a 20 to 30-minute brisk walk around the mall while you are there. Change into your workout clothes as soon as you get home from work. You can fit in an exercise routine before you start your evening activities. Include your family or friends. Take a walk together after dinner or do strength training exercises while you watch your favorite TV program. Even fitting in 10 to 15-minute exercise intervals during your workday will do your body good.
4. Set Your Alarm Early
When you work out first thing in the morning you eliminate the risk of getting distracted by the busyness of your day or unexpected events. Even if you wake up 15 minutes early to squeeze in a strength training session, a brisk walk or cardio exercises at the gym, this is an effective way to start your day. You will jump start your day with more energy and a sense of accomplishment.
5. Try New Activities
Keep your activities fun and challenging so you are not tempted to skip your workouts. Incorporate walking/running/hiking in scenic spots and include hills and steps. Find group exercise or dance classes that are convenient for you. Include friends or family members so you have a workout buddy and accountability partner. Enjoy activities like tennis, biking, softball, rock climbing and social dancing. Keep your muscles strong, toned and guessing what you will do next.
Even the busiest person can stay in shape and prioritize their health. The benefits to be gained in leading a healthy lifestyle are worth every minute of time invested. Commit to making exercise a priority and never settle for less than feeling fit and fabulous.
-Diane Duvall, Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine. Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Atlantis FL 33462. Phone: (561) 432-8935.