If you’re reading this, kudos to you for wanting to make fitness a priority! Here you’ll find practical strategies to help you start, stay focused, and be encouraged on your journey.
To start, you might want to understand the target. The current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity plus two days of muscle-strengthening exercises per week.
The good news is you can break this down any way you’d like with a variety of activities. And while these guidelines focus solely on physical activity, remember that it’s also important to be mentally and emotionally fit – but that’s for another article.
Now, with fitness at the forefront, lets dive into a few strategies to get on the path to a healthier you!
Exercise & Wellness Tip #1
Define wellness for yourself.
How would you define healthy and fit? The answer differs from person to person. Ideally, your blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood cholesterol and other numbers are within a healthy range, you feel good most days, and you might say you are “in shape.” But there are many pathways – especially in choosing how to pursue physical fitness.
Sometimes the idea of going to a gym or pounding away on a treadmill can be intimidating – even for the most motivated person. Luckily, exercise doesn’t have to involve a gym.
The truth is, you get to choose. Dancing at home, swimming, playing tennis, jumping rope, and even rollerblading are all ways to get fit and stay healthy. And remember, different types of activities yield different benefits. Yoga not only enhances flexibility and balance, but it may also help reduce the risk of heart disease and anxiety and improve the overall quality of life. There’s even evidence that yoga might influence healthier eating habits. So, try out a few new activities or exercises and switch it up from time to time.
Be sure to focus on what works best for you and have fun.
Exercise & Wellness Tip #2
Doing too much too fast can be overwhelming and lead to burnout. Start small.
The thought of running 5 miles a day is daunting to the average person. But how about a 5-minute walk? If you’re new to exercising or simply out of practice, remember that even a marathon starts with the first step!
The latest Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans confirm that bouts of exercise of any length of time are beneficial. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator? Biking 10 minutes to the store? Running around with your dog in the yard? It all counts!
Aim to lengthen that 5-minute walk over time. Try 6 minutes the next day and keep increasing the time until you reach a goal of 20-30 minutes each day. If the duration is not a challenge, think of ways to increase the intensity slowly. You might incorporate a 1-minute jog into a walking routine and eventually reach a full run or jog. The intent is to keep challenging yourself to grow and maybe get faster and stronger in the process.
Exercise & Wellness Tip #3
Set your future self up for success
While it may feel as if you don’t have time to exercise, like everything else on your calendar, you must make time for it. Set a reminder and get an alert on the phone and think ahead to overcome potential obstacles.
You might lay out your clothes, place your sneakers next to the door and fill up a water bottle the night before a morning workout. This eliminates the chance that you’ll be distracted by looking for your gear. With everything in place, you’ll be focused and won’t have time to second guess going for that run.
Is there an outdoor boot camp in your neighborhood? Pay for it ahead of time, arrange for childcare, or leave work on time to make the class. This seemingly small commitment just might be enough to hold you accountable.
Exercise & Wellness Tip #4
Warm-up and cool down
Preparing your body for exercise is an essential part of a successful fitness routine.
Warming up has many benefits. A proper warm-up helps increase blood flow to the muscles. It promotes flexibility in the muscles, which might help reduce the risk of injury. And this pre-workout step slowly increases the heart rate, which may mean less stress on the heart.
Warm-up exercises might include a 10-15 minute walk or light jog and forms of active stretching such as arm circles and leg kicks.Cooling down is equally important. After a workout, your heart rate and body temperature are up, and blood vessels are expanded. Abruptly stopping can shock the system and cause fatigue, excessive muscle soreness, and in extreme cases passing out.
Doing an active cool-down may help gradually reduce your heart rate and blood pressure. It can also prevent your muscles from tightening which can lead to soreness and might negatively impact performance the next time you exercise.
Cool-down exercises can be as simple as a 5-10 minute walk or slow and steady pedaling on a bike at the end of a workout. With the muscles all warmed up, this is also an ideal time to stretch. You might try a seated forward bend, or even yoga poses such as tabletop or child’s pose to help promote flexibility.
Exercise & Wellness Tip #5
Adjust your lens
Weight loss is often a goal, and sometimes the only reason for getting fit and healthy. But what if the numbers on the scale don’t go down? This might lead to anxiety or feelings of defeat.
Exercise is not just a means to an end. No matter the numbers consider focusing on all of the other things that fitness may bring. Do you feel better after a morning workout? Are you happier and more energized? Do you sleep better? Is your blood pressure lower?
If the answer to any of these is yes, you’ve just identified another reason to keep going!