How to Add Physical Activity to Your Life
Being more active will help you feel and look better, make it easier to do everyday activities (like climbing stairs), and help you lose weight and keep it off. Regular physical activity has real health-related benefits too: studies have proven that it reduces blood pressure and your risk for heart disease, diabetes and some kinds of cancer.
Doctors recommend 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week. How do you start? You don't have to spend hours at the gym! In fact, you don't even have to have a huge space. You can "move your muscles" and get your heart rate up by swimming, brisk walking or even dancing.
You can start by walking for 10 minutes after dinner, gradually building up to 30 minutes most days. Over time, you'll find you can walk longer and faster.
Moderate to vigorous physical activity works your large muscles, increases your heart rate, and makes you breathe harder, which are important goals for fitness. Stretching helps to make you flexible and prevent soreness after being physically active.
Seven Steps to Start and Stick with It
1. Find an activity you enjoy. Try doing a new activity a couple of times before deciding whether to continue with that it. If one activity isn't a good fit, don't give up. Try something else. Doing an exercise you enjoy is important because if you don't like it, you won't stick with it. Find an activity (or two) that you like and you can do regularly for the best results.
When choosing your activity, keep in mind that for most people, household chores (washing dishes, laundry, making beds), strolling around the mall, light gardening, bowling, or going fishing are not considered moderate activity; they would be light intensity or lifestyle activities. Lifestyle activities don't increase our heart rate or our breathing which means they should not count towards your goal of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity.
2. Start slowly. If you're not already physically active, begin slowly and work your way up to the 150 minutes/week goal. It will take about 4 weeks. For example, you could park farther from the door, take the stairs, or walk around the block. Gradually add a little more time and intensity each week. Doing too much too quickly may result in an injury. Give yourself permission to work up to it.
3. Partner up. It's more fun when someone else is counting on you to show up. You'll also keep each other accountable. Having a partner may help you to continue to be active.
4. Pick a daily activity goal. You may choose to walk a mile every day for a month or to be active five days a week for 30 minutes. Be specific and realistic.
5. Schedule it. The weekly goal is 150 minutes of physical activity. Try to fit in at least 20 to 25 minutes of activity every day, which will help it become a habit. Think of ways to link activity to daily life. For example, you could schedule walking with a co-worker after lunch, or a family member after dinner. Find the time that works best for you to total 150 minutes/week. For example, you can schedule 30 minutes at one time five times a week; or 15 minutes at a time 10 times a week; or even 10 minutes at a time several times a day.
6. Wear good shoes. If you have a pair that fits well and supports your feet, great. If not, invest in a good pair of athletic shoes.
7. Track it. Logging your exercise every day on paper or online makes it more likely you'll reach and surpass your goal. It will also lend accountability to yourself and your goals.
When you build physical activity into your daily life, you'll feel healthier and younger than you have in years. Go ahead! Move those muscles!
Tools & Resources
- Ready to get more active? Set goals, choose activities that work for you, and stay on track with Move Your WaySM Activity Planner
- Track your weekly activity with this Physical Activity Diary
The YMCA's Diabetes Prevention Program can help you develop lifelong healthy habits. Eight YMCA locations in the state of New Hampshire – and 200 other Ys around the country -- help thousands of people reduce their risk for developing type 2 diabetes. This small-group program helps people with prediabetes increase their physical activity, eat healthier, and lose weight, which can delay or even prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Call 603.232.8668 or visit our website for more info and to sign up for a program where you live.