As cold weather settles in and the days grow shorter, it's tempting to put off any thoughts of becoming active. The bustle of the holidays also makes it harder to follow through on a plan to start exercising, because you just don't think you have the time.
But don't let the season or the weather get in your way. You owe it to yourself to get moving.
The consequences of a sedentary lifestyle can be costly. Inactivity is a risk factor for heart disease and can contribute to other serious health conditions, including stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some cancers. It also reduces your overall level of fitness, so when you do want to get up and get moving, it's harder to do so.
To break out of your sedentary approach to fitness, it is helpful to first identity your excuses not to exercise, and then replace them with reasons why you should.
If you think you don't have time, remember that being active helps you build motivation and energy. When you are physically active, you'll actually accomplish more in your day. If you would rather relax on the couch at the end of a stressful day, keep in mind that exercise is a great stress reducer.
Put thoughts into action
As soon as you decide you want a more active lifestyle, it's time to put your intentions into action. Be sure to check with your health care provider before starting an exercise program.
Follow these tips to get yourself moving:
Think of yourself as an active person. Picture yourself in motion, not at rest.
Start small and increase your exercise as your strength and endurance improve.
Don't get discouraged. If your exercise schedule is interrupted, don't give up, just start again.
Use a combination of strength-training exercises and aerobic activities. For exercise ideas you can refer to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services brochure "Be Active your Way: A Guide for Adults." English and Spanish versions can be accessed at http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/adultguide/default.aspx.
Make a schedule. Put your exercise time in your appointment book so you won't be tempted to forget about it. You should work toward getting 60 minutes of moderate aerobic activity most days of the week. But remember, even 10 minutes is better than nothing.
Look for active choices. Use the stairs, not the elevator. Park in the far parking lot, not the one by the door.
Focus on the process. Goals are great, as long as they're realistic. It may be helpful to consult with your health care provider or a fitness professional who can help you set and carry out specific goals. But it's also important to enjoy an active lifestyle for its own sake. Do you feel better when you exercise regularly? Look better? Have more energy?
Turn off the television. American adults spend more than four hours a day watching TV. Trade in just one sitcom a day for a walk around the neighborhood. If you can't skip the sitcom, at least commit to doing jumping jacks or lifting hand weights during the commercials.
Reward yourself. You look and feel better, but you may also feel like you deserve a treat. Promise yourself a new outfit or a nice dinner out if you stick to the program.
Choose activities that fit your personality and that you really enjoy. If you enjoy what you're doing, you'll stick with it in the long term.
Being physically active and staying fit are two of the most important actions Americans of all ages can take to improve their health. So invest in yourself and start your exercise program today!
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