With the unofficial start of summer at the end of this month, many are beginning to think about starting to exercise before putting on a bathing suit and heading out to the beach or pool. Of course, exercise is helpful for weight control and muscle building, and can improve physical appearance. What is not as well known are the other physical, mental and emotional benefits of incorporating exercise into your daily routine.
In addition to weight control, other physical benefits of exercise include improving the functions of our cardiovascular system. Aerobic exercise can help prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and stokes. Other forms of exercise can help prevent arthritis, osteoporosis, and can help improve balance to prevent falls.
What is equally impressive are the mental and emotional health benefits of exercising regularly. Exercise improves not only focus and concentration, but it also improves mood. In fact, studies have shown that 15 minutes of aerobic exercise was as effective as an antidepressant for some forms of depression. Walking around the block often changes perspective and helps reduce stress.
Joh Ratey MD, who studies the benefits of exercise, has suggested that if the positive effects of exercise could come in pill form, it would be the most prescribed drug. Since that is not possible, how do you incorporate exercise into your busy life when you already feel pressed for time?
Ten tips for sneaking exercise in your day
Don’t you like it or do you feel like you have time to go to the gym? The good news is that exercise doesn’t have to involve getting on a treadmill or lifting weights at the gym to be effective. It can be relatively low cost and not a huge investment of time. However, before you start, check with your doctor if you haven’t exercised in a while or are pregnant. Also, be sure to wear appropriate footwear for your activity. Many joint or back injuries are caused by wearing old or worn shoes. Here are ten ways to get around:
- Park away from your office, drive to the store or school, and walk. These little walks add up throughout the day. In fact, studies have shown that short bursts of exercise throughout the day are more effective than a long burst.
- Take the steps instead of the elevator. If you go between floors, go up the steps. You need a quick break in the afternoon – walk up and down several times. Exercise will revive you much more than a trip to the coffee machine.
- Use an exercise tracker and measure your steps. There are many inexpensive trackers, as well as more sophisticated and expensive devices, but even the cheapest ones will provide you with step data. Set a goal and achieve it. For the first few days, use it without changing your activity. Once you create a baseline, add 500 to 1,000 steps per day each week.
- Use apps for inspiration. Studies have shown that, like fitness trackers, people who use apps are more successful in following an exercise program. There are applications like 5K that inspire you and take you from the couch to the 5K. My fitness friend Y ActivX are some other popular fitness apps.
- Sign up for a charity walk or run and use it to inspire you to get moving. Whether it’s 1 mile, 5, or 10 km, it gives you a goal and a deadline to work.
- Take a friend or two. People are much more likely to follow a routine if they have someone else who will accompany them and hold them accountable. Making fitness social provides the added benefit of connecting with others.
- Have a family or office challenge. It doesn’t have to be a competition, but it can be a way to cheer each other on and keep everyone involved in a common goal.
- Try a new activity like dancing, walking, swimming, or a fun group exercise class that you’ve always been curious about.
- Make exercise a weekly family activity. Take a hike, bike ride, or walk around the neighborhood.
- Household activities like gardening, cleaning, or other projects can be a great opportunity to get the blood flowing. Play upbeat music to keep you moving with energy.