Physical activity helps control weight, builds lean muscle, reduces fat, promotes strong bone, muscle and joint development, and decreases the risk of obesity.
Physical activity is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Combined with healthy eating, it can help prevent a range of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and stroke, which are the three leading causes of death. Physical activity helps control weight, builds lean muscle, reduces fat, promotes strong bone, muscle and joint development, and decreases the risk of obesity.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) physical activity guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get at least 2½ hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week. You don't have to do it all at once; you can spread this activity out over easy 30-minute increments, five days a week. Or you can choose from many activities and do them in bouts of 10 minutes. The HHS also advises doing muscle-strengthening exercises 2 or more days a week.
The best exercise is one that you will actually do. So find a form of physical activity that you enjoy— walking, biking, gardening, swimming, as long as it that really gets you moving—and find time to do it 5 or more days a week. If it's something you love to do, you'll be much more motivated to do it regularly.
People have different likes and dislikes. This is just as true for physical activity as anything else. Here are some ideas for getting more physically active:
You can also motivate yourself by setting short- and long-term goals. Break down your fitness goals into graduated steps that will logically take you from your short-term goals to the long –term ones. For example:
Having a clear picture of the advances you're making can help keep you motivated to stay with your program and meet your goals. Forms like those in the resources can help you get a better picture of what activities might be working well for you and which ones you find more challenging. By setting and meeting short-term goals, you can claim many "little victories" that spur you on to reaching your ultimate goal. Remember to celebrate these victories.
Giving yourself a simple reward when you reach you short- or long-term goals can be highly motivating. It reinforces the good work that you're doing and inspires you to do more.
Whatever physical activity you choose to engage in can become more enjoyable when a friend or two is doing it alongside you. Having a friend or a group involved helps keep you motivated, and that can give you a boost whenever you're lagging. Knowing that friends are depending on you to meet them for your activity is just the thing to help get you out of the house and keep you going.
When you're back to a higher level of fitness, you can save time by choosing vigorous physical activities along with your moderate physical activities. You can get similar benefits in less time. Check out the sidebar on moderate vs. vigorous activiites for more ideas.
|Below 500||We now know that any amount of physical activity has some health benefits.|
|500-1,000||These numbers reflect the amount of physical activity necessary to achieve significant health benefits.|
|More than 1,000||This level of activity is great especially if significant weight loss is your primary goal|