Getting exercise doesn't mean you have to join an expensive gym. Anything that gets your body moving can be good for you: walking, stretching, taking the stairs, or a full-on exercise routine. Start small, and add more.
- Go for a brisk walk around your neighborhood
- Ride a bicycle
- Do some heavy yard work or housework
Don't know where to start? Talk to your doctor first—especially if you have a health condition. See what types of exercise he or she recommends for you. Your doctor can also help you set goals that are right for you. Do this before starting a new exercise routine or making changes to one.
Tip: Make exercise a family commitment. When you set plans with a friend or family member, you can support each other and make your exercise activity a priority.
Be realistic—and a little forgiving
Exercise shouldn’t be an all or nothing plan. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Go out for a 10-minute walk. If you didn’t have time to do it today, make a point of doing it tomorrow. Best yet, determine a time you know will work for your schedule, and stick to it.
Exercise Should Have Three Main Parts
- Aerobic ("a-row-bic") exercise makes your heart beat faster and you breathe harder. Walking, running, dancing, riding a bike, and swimming are all great aerobic activities.
- Strength-Building is repetitions you do with weighted objects to make your muscles grow stronger.
- Stretching exercises are movements that lengthen and loosen muscles and joints.
How Much Aerobic Activity Should I Do?
Experts recommend 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Choose a level that is right for you. A moderate level means you can talk while you are working. A vigorous level means you can only say a few words before pausing for a breath.
- Moderate Exercise: Activities like walking fast, dancing, heavy yard work, or heavy housework.
- Vigorous Exercise: Activities like running/jogging, riding a bike, or swimming.
You don’t have to do 30 minutes all at once—but do your aerobic activity for at least 10 minutes at a time. If moderate exercise is all you're doing, try doing more than 30 minutes a day. This will help increase the health benefits of your exercise routine.
How Much Strength Building Should I Do?
Experts recommend doing strength-building activities at least 2 days per week. Don't know what to do? Try sit-ups, push-ups or bicep curls. If joining a gym is too expensive, you can do some simple things at home, like using canned food or jugs filled with water as weights. Be sure the items you’re lifting are within recommendations set by your doctor or health care professional, and are safely sealed!
Strengthen all your muscle groups when you exercise: legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms. Continue your exercise until it is challenging to repeat the action. If you feel a sharp pain in a muscle or joint, safely put down your weight and consult your doctor. Muscle strengthening should be challenging, but not painful.
Allow Your Muscles to Recover
Your muscles actually grow in a relaxed state after your exercise, not during the actual activity. So if you work one group one day, do a different group the next. Give your muscles time to heal and grow!
You may feel sore 24–36 hours after you exercise. When you exercise, your muscle fibers get tiny tears—a natural process that allows them to grow. With the increased blood flow from your exercise, these muscles swell and begin healing—but it makes them feel sore.
To help relieve feeling sore, lightly stretch or massage the area—or take a hot bath or shower. This will increase blood flow to your muscles, which helps repair them. If pain persists longer than 48 hours, talk to your doctor.
Physical Activity is Fun
Physical activity leads to improved physical and mental health, improving your quality of life. Regular exercise also helps you:
- Maintain your weight, improve muscle tone, and reduce the effects of aging
- Control your blood pressure and blood sugar
- Prevent heart disease, colorectal cancer, and type 2 diabetes
- Balance your sleep
- Reduce falls and arthritis pain
- Increase your lifespan
Mix up your routine
Once you start getting more active—mix it up! Don't fall into a routine of just doing the same activity. Your body and muscles become used to the work they do. If you enjoy both walking and riding a bike—alternate days you do either activity.