With busy lives – full-time work, family and personal commitments, establishing a fitness routine outside of work can be overwhelming. But sometimes it only takes a few minutes to assess your schedule to create a simple routine that works for you.
- Review your schedule and look for times when exercise will fit in. Keep it simple. It doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment – maybe getting up 15 minutes earlier in the morning for a stretch or taking a 15 minute walk at lunch.
- Make a list of activities you enjoy: a brisk walk, gentle yoga exercises, a circuit routine, a run, joining a fitness group or using an exercise DVD.
- Schedule your workouts. Once committed to exercising, incorporate it into your weekly routine, plan out the days and times. Start slowly, maybe 15-20 minutes each day and then on weekends an hour long walk or run. Showing up for your personal commitment is the biggest battle.
Too often, people put off exercise for when they feel there’s more time or they’re feeling better or they’ve lost a bit of weight. But once establishing your own exercise routine, whatever it may be, you begin to feel better, and all of sudden the excuses no longer exist. Exercise becomes part of your life. Your energy levels will improve, and your new routine may even contribute to weight loss. It doesn’t have to be a long sweaty workout, just a lifestyle commitment.
Start a Walking ProgramWalking is one of the easiest forms of exercise. It offers the flexibility of being able to do it any place and any time. The only equipment needed is a good pair of shoes, comfortable clothing, and desire.
How to start: Start out slow and easy. For most people this means, walk for 10 minutes, then walk back. Each workout routine is individual, make it work for you. Do this every day for a week. Add five minutes each week until you have reached your goal for a regular routine.
WATCH posture. Walk tall. Elongate your body. Hold your head up and eyes forward. Your shoulders should be down, back and relaxed. Make sure you have comfortable shoes with proper support.
Drink plenty of water before, during, and after walking. Incorporate a warm up, cool down with stretches into your routine. Start your walk at a slow warm up pace, stop and do a few warm up exercises. At the end of your walk, slow down the pace to cool body temperature. Stretch well after walking. This will help prevent injury.
The hardest part about starting a fitness program is developing the habit. Walking daily will help (a minimum of five days a week is a good goal). Sometimes walking with a friend helps with motivation and commitment.
After you have formed the habit you may want to evaluate your program and your goals. Here are some general guidelines:
- If you are walking for the general health benefits try to walk 30 minutes a day, most days of the week. Make sure you are still able to carry on a conversation comfortably, without shortness of breath.
- To improve cardiovascular fitness you should walk three to four days a week for 20 to 30 minutes each time, at a very fast pace. At this pace you should be breathing hard but not gasping for air.
- If you are walking for weight loss you should walk a minimum of five days a week for 45 to 60 minutes at a brisk pace.
Health Benefits of Daily Exercise
Daily exercise can improve the quality of your life. Here are just a few of the health benefits of incorporating exercise into your daily schedule.
Exercise controls weight
Exercise prevents weight gain and helps maintain weight loss. It helps reduce body fat by building or preserving muscle mass and improving the body's ability to use calories. When physical activity is combined with proper nutrition, it can help control weight and prevent obesity, a major risk factor for many diseases. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn. Don't panic if you miss an occasional workout, get more active throughout the day in simple ways - by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking to the corner store instead of taking your car.
Exercise combats health conditions and diseases
Daily physical activity can help prevent heart disease and stroke by strengthening your heart muscle, lowering your blood pressure, raising your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels (good cholesterol) and lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels (bad cholesterol), improving blood flow, and increasing your heart's working capacity.
Regular physical activity can also reduce blood pressure in those with high blood pressure levels. Physical activity reduces body fat, which is associated with high blood pressure.
By reducing body fat, physical activity can help to prevent and control noninsulin-dependent diabetes.
By increasing muscle strength and endurance and improving flexibility and posture, regular exercise helps to strengthen the back as well as prevent back pain.
Regular weight-bearing exercise promotes bone formation and may prevent osteoporosis associated with aging.
Exercise improves mood
A workout at the gym or a brisk 30-minute walk can help release stress or just offer an emotional lift. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. Studies on the psychological effects of exercise have found that regular physical activity can improve your mood and the way you feel about yourself.
Exercise boosts energy
Regular physical activity improves muscle strength and boosts endurance. Exercise and physical activity deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues and help the cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you have more energy to complete your daily commitments.
Exercise promotes better sleep
Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep. But exercising too close to bedtime may energize your body and make it difficult to fall asleep. Sleep also has incredible health benefits.
Exercise can be fun
Exercise and physical activity can be a fun way to spend some time. It gives you a chance to unwind, enjoy the outdoors or simply engage in activities that make you happy. Whether it’s a dance class, hiking with a friend or joining a soccer team, physical activity can help you connect with family or friends in a more relaxed environment.
The bottom line on exercise
Exercise and physical activity are a great way to feel better, gain health benefits and have fun. As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. If you want to lose weight or meet specific fitness goals, you may need to exercise more. Be sure to start off slowly and build your exercise routine up gradually.
If you have any health concerns or medical conditions, make sure you check with your doctor for advice before you begin a routine.