Finding the time and energy to exercise can be difficult, we know. But physical activity is important — critical, in fact — if you want to lower your heart disease risk.
You may be surprised to learn what qualifies as “physical activity.” It’s not just training for a marathon or lifting weights at the gym. Walking to work, gardening, square dancing on a Saturday night...anything and everything that gets you moving counts.
Sounds more appealing already, eh? No matter your starting point, here’s how to increase your activity level without feeling overwhelmed.
- Set measurable goals that you think you can keep. You can always build on them as you get stronger.
- Keep an activity journal. Having a written record will help you recognize your successes and motivate you to keep progressing.
- Choose activities you enjoy. If you don’t like an activity, you won’t want to do it regularly. For instance, why force yourself to walk on a treadmill when you’d happily volunteer to walk outside?
- Build your support network. You will be much more likely to keep up a routine if you have a family member, friend, or coworker counting on you.
- Plan it out. Start each day knowing what kind of activity you will do and for how long. If you’re going to be walking, running, or biking, it helps to plot your route in advance.
Determine your activity level
- Step 1. You are just getting started. You do not participate in any physical activity.
- Step 2. You participate in some moderate physical activity each week but could use more.
- Step 3. You are physically fit and want to maintain your level of activity.
- Commit to small, manageable goals. Start with 10-minute chunks of activity time a couple days each week.
- Choose activities you like. Walk during your break at work or while you are at the mall. Push your child in a stroller. Dance to your favorite music. Play tag with your kids.
- Maintain your goals for two weeks, than add another five minutes of time to each goal.
- Build up to 30 minutes of activity, three days per week. The activity doesn’t have to happen all at once. Three 10-minute sessions can provide the same health benefits as one 30-minute session.
- Increase your activity time. If you are already active for 30 minutes, three times per week, aim for 45-minute sessions instead.
- Add more days to your routine. If you are already exercising three days per week, why not go for five?
- Increase the intensity of your activity. As you get stronger, you’ll be able to push yourself harder. If you already walk, add in a walk-jog once or twice each week. Alternate walking and jogging throughout the 30-minute session.
- Don’t do the same kind of exercise each time. Check out a fitness video from the library to try something different. If you normally walk on flat terrain, try walking hills (or increasing the incline on a treadmill). If you’re a gym-goer, try out a new machine.
- Alternate between more vigorous exercise and moderate activity.
- Remember to mix things up. If your muscles get used to the same old routine, you won’t continue to get the same benefits.
- Do muscle strengthening exercises two days per week. Include all the major muscle groups, including legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms. Exercises for each muscle group should be repeated 8 to 12 times per session.
“Everyday” activity counts, too!
In addition to your planned exercise activity sessions, increasing your everyday activity can have benefits foryour heart.
- Take the stairs rather than the elevator or escalator.
- Park further away from the door and walk.
- While watching TV, use commercial time to do stretches or stomach exercises.
|Common Chores||Sporting Activities|
|Washing and waxing a car for 45-60 minutes||Playing volleyball for 45-60 minutes|
|Washing windows or floors for 45-60 minutes||Playing touch football for 45 minutes|
|Gardening for 30-45 minutes||Walking 1.75 miles in 35 minutes (20min/mile)|
|Wheeling self in wheelchair 30-40 minutes||Basketball (shooting baskets) 30 minutes|
|Pushing a stroller 1.5 miles in 30 minutes||Bicycling 5 miles in 30 minutes|
|Raking leaves for 30 minutes||Dancing fast (social) for 30 minutes|
|Walking 2 miles in 30 minutes (15 min/mile)||Water aerobics for 30 minutes|
|Shoveling snow for 15 minutes||Swimming laps for 20 minutes|
|Stair walking for 15 minutes||Basketball (playing game) for 15-20 minutes|
|Bicycling 4 miles in 15 minutes|
|Jumping rope for 15 minutes|
|Running 1.5 miles in 15 min. (10min/mile)|