It Can Be Easy to Be More Active
Exercise—it pumps some people up and makes others groan. Sometimes it seems overwhelming to fit in, especially through the life changes we’ve all had due to COVID-19. But it is one of the very best ways we can keep ourselves physically and mentally healthy… and it really doesn’t have to be difficult.
How and Why We Want to Move More
There are two basic ways to increase our activity level: Take advantage of opportunities throughout the day—basically, move more and sit less; or plan your activity, whether it’s a scheduled gym visit or regular walk. And the numerous health benefits are worth trying to figure out how to fit more activity into the day. Being more active increases energy, decreases anxiety and depression, improves self-esteem, lowers risk of dementia, boosts mental functioning and improves sleep. Regular activity also improves our immune system (more important than ever), lowers the risk of multiple types of cancer and helps lower blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, plus improves joint health, balance and flexibility.
The official recommendation for exercise is in two parts—aerobic activity and muscle strengthening. Adults should aim for a minimum of 2-½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (think brisk walk) spread out through the week. Or engage in at least 1-¼ hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week. Additionally, adults should do strength training exercises with all the major muscle groups at least two times each week (not two days in a row). A couple of main points to remember—research shows that any activity, light or otherwise, helps lower the risk of early death. Also, any physical activity counts towards the recommendations and can work to make us healthier and feel better.
General tips to make being active easier:
- If you’re starting out, go slowly. If you injure yourself or are in pain right off the bat, you’re not going to want to continue.
- Be flexible. As we know now more than ever, life changes. Schedules change. Have a back-up plan for when the unexpected happens.
- Change it up. The exercises or motivation that worked a few years ago may no longer work. Do what works for you now, in your present day-to-day life.
- Do something fun. Or at least something you don’t dread.
- Experiment with incorporating more activity throughout the day. Take 5-10-minute walks, climb steps, park farther away from your destination than usual, stretch and move every hour on the hour, do three minutes of jumping jacks or keep exercise bands in your desk (and use them!).
- Use your Fitbit, Apple Watch, or another tracker to remind you to move. Let it challenge you to do more.
- The best time of day to move more or exercise is literally any time that you’ll do it.
- Find an exercise buddy, at least sometimes. You’ll keep each other on track.
- If possible, exercise outside—being outdoors comes with the added benefit of stress relief.
- Remember, any movement or exercise is better than none.
- Check with your doctor if you have any concerns or health issues.