American adults spend about 55 percent of their waking day inactive. A sedentary lifestyle has been linked to diabetes and death from heart disease or stroke. In addition, being sedentary for more than three hours a day can shave years off your life. Since many of the physical demands of daily living have been eliminated, we need to find ways of adding more physical activity as part of our daily routines.
According to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, children and adolescents should get one hour or more of physical activity daily. Adults should get at least two and a half hours (150 minutes) each week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity. Any bit of physical activity you get counts towards your 150 minutes per week. You do not need to be active for at least 10 minutes at a time, so if you can do 5 minutes at a time, it all adds up! Adults should also do strengthening activities, at least two days a week. Only 53.3% of all adults meet the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic exercise, and only 23.2% meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle strengthening.
Improve Your Health
Exercise is one of the easiest and most effective ways of improving both your physical and mental health. No matter your age or fitness level, there are many enjoyable ways to use physical activity to help you feel better, look better, and enjoy life more.
It’s a Lifestyle
The real key to success is changing your lifestyle by increasing your level of activity throughout the day with incremental, sustained changes to your lifestyle. As you increase your activity levels, you will increase your capability for physical activity. People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them a sense of well–being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have clearer memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives.
Exercise is not just about aerobic capacity and muscle size. It doesn’t take hours of pumping weights, running miles, or sweating buckets to achieve results. Research has shown that even modest improvements in fitness levels have overall health benefits. Start with 5- or 10-minute sessions and slowly increase your time. As exercising becomes habit, you can slowly add extra minutes or try different types of activities. If you keep at it, the benefits of exercise will begin to pay off and improve your chances of making and sustaining the change.
Move more in your daily life. Think about physical activity as a lifestyle choice rather than a single task to check off your to-do list. Look at your daily routine and consider ways to sneak in activity. Even very small activities can add up over the course of a day. Also, a pedometer is a great tool to help you measure how much change you make to your daily routine.
Tips to Stay Active
- Take it slow. Start with an activity you feel comfortable doing, go at your own pace, and keep your expectations realistic.
- Go easy on yourself. No matter what your weight, age, or fitness level, there are others like you with the same goal of exercising more.
- Make exercise a priority. Commit to an exercise schedule for at least 4 weeks so that it becomes habit, and force yourself to stick with it.
- In and around your home. Clean the house, wash the car, tend to the yard and garden, mow the lawn, or sweep the sidewalk, patio, or deck. Don’t stay seated more than 30 minutes.
- At work. Take a walk during your coffee break or lunch hour. Walk while you’re talking on your cell phone.
- On the go. Bike or walk to an appointment rather than drive or park at the back of the lot and walk into the store.
- With friends or family. Walk or jog around the soccer or baseball field during your kid’s practice, make a bike ride part of the weekend routine, play tag or exercise video games with your children, walk the dog together as a family, or take a class in martial arts, dance, or yoga with co-workers, a friend or spouse.
- Concentrate on activities you enjoy. If you love to swim, dance, or play tennis you’ll find it easier to continue with an exercise program.
- Incorporate recreation activities. Enjoy outdoor activities such as golf, playing Frisbee, hiking trails, or water skiing.
- Focus on short-term goals, such as improving your mood and energy levels and reducing stress, rather than goals such as weight loss or increased muscle size, as these can take longer to achieve.
- Stay motivated. Shake things up and try something new. Socializing with friends and working out with others can help keep you motivated. Reward yourself when you reach your goals—a new pair of shoes, a movie night, whatever works to motivate you.
- Expect ups and downs. Don’t be discouraged if you skip a few days or even a week. Just get started again!
- Be Patient. It may take up to six months to start seeing the benefits of increased activity. Remember, while that may seem like a long time, you’re working on a lifestyle change that you’re going to enjoy for the rest of your life.
Rather than focus on why you don’t want to exercise, concentrate on how good you feel when you’ve finished an activity or a workout. Hopefully, these tips will inspire you to get moving and do something good for your health!
- 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, health.gov/our-work/physical-activity
- Harvard Health Newsletter, health.harvard.edu/newsletters
- Joslin Diabetes Center, joslin.org
- United States Department of Agriculture, usda.gov
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/exercise.htm