Put the Power of Regular Physical Activity to Work for You
You know exercise is good for you, and that it's in your best interest to make this
the year you start and/or maintain regular physical activity. But do you know
how good getting 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week really is?
Consider: The most recent Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health found that regular physical activity:
- Reduces the risk of dying from heart disease
- Reduces the risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and colon cancer
- Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety
- Helps control weight and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints
- Helps maintain function and preserve independence in older adults
"If U.S. citizens put in 30 minutes of aerobic activity five times a week
it would cut the amount of chronic diseases and health costs by almost half.
That's how powerful physical fitness is," says Pamela Peeke, M.D., M.P.H.,
assistant clinical professor of Medicine at the University of Maryland School
of Medicine and author of the national best-seller Fight Fat After Forty.
So you're interested, but aren't sure how to begin. Dr. Peeke says it's best to
start out by walking (or doing some other type of aerobic exercise) and then
add strength training later. Good forms of aerobic exercise including walking,
biking, swimming and jogging.
In addition to aerobic exercise, it's important to incorporate strength training
into your program. Dr. Peeke says it's imperative to do both because lifting weights
not only builds your muscles, but also raises your metabolism, causing you to
burn more calories.
"The bottom line is what works is a combination of both," Dr. Peeke says.
"Whether you're trying to lose weight or exercising for fitness, it's still
important for everyone to do some level of weightlifting and aerobic exercise.
Ultimately you want strength, flexibility and endurance."
Starting a program in January is one thing, maintaining it is another matter
entirely. Dr. Peeke offers advice to help you keep moving all year long.
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- Find the right kind of exercise for you. Choose activities that you
enjoy and that fit your personality.
- Make the time to exercise. Pick a time of the day when you'll always
have time to exercise and stick to it. Don't make excuses not to exercise.
Instead, try setting a schedule for the week that indicates which days you'll
- Get up and move! Incorporate exercise during the day, even while
you're at work. If you sit at a desk most of the day, get out of your chair
at least once an hour and walk around. As Dr. Peeke advises: "Use the five-minute-per-hour rule. Look for ways to just get up and move." Some suggestions:
Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk down the hall instead of using
the phone or e-mail, or take a walk during a morning or afternoon break.
- Find an exercise buddy. Get a friend involved and be each other's
motivators, or join a group. The advantage to this approach is that you know
other people are counting on you and you don't want to let them down.
- Check with a doctor before beginning an exercise program. This is
especially important as you get older or if you have a history of health problems.
- Strength train safely. When beginning a strength-training program,
Dr. Peeke says it's important to work with an expert (such as a trainer) who is
knowledgeable about equipment and proper exercise methods. "You need
someone to show you safe techniques for what to do," advises Dr. Peeke.
- Start slowly. This will help you achieve the most benefits with the
least risk, especially if you have not been physically active for some time.
- Make exercise fun. If you buy home equipment, put it in front of
the television. That way, you won't get bored when you're exercising.
- Write down why you want to exercise. Keep this list somewhere very
visible to regularly reinforce your motivation.
- Set weekly goals with enticing rewards. Establishing attainable short-term
goals gives you something to work toward and a feeling of accomplishment
when you reach them. Take time to celebrate your achievement. Avoid food rewards,
especially if weight loss is your goal. Instead, reward yourself with a movie
or a massage.
- Keep an exercise log. This is a good way to keep you consistent and it will help you
review your goals and remember why you're doing this in the first place.
- Make stretching a part of your workout routine. Most experts recommend
stretching after exercise while the muscles are warm. Stretching is important
because it keeps your body in good alignment and prevents injury.
- Wear comfortable shoes with good support when exercising. Nothing
can derail an exercise program faster than a foot-related injury caused by
- Practice the "talk test." Basically, this means that when
you are exercising, you should be able to speak about three words at a time.
If you cannot get three words out at a time, slow down. If you can carry on
a normal conversation, pick up the pace.
December 31, 2009.
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