With the unofficial start of summer at the end of this month, many begin to think about starting to exercise before putting on a bathing suit and hitting the beach or pool. Exercise is of course helpful for weight management and building muscles 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 management, other physical benefits of exercise include improvement in our cardiovascular system functions. 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 as impressive are the benefits to mental and emotional health when exercising on a regular basis. Exercise improves not only focus and concentration but also enhances mood as well. In fact, studies have shown that 15 minutes of aerobic exercise was equally as effective as an antidepressant for some forms of depression. Walking around the block often shifts 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 a pill form, it would be the most widely prescribed medication. Since that is not possible, how do you incorporate exercise into your busy life when you already feel pressed for time?
Ten Tips to Sneak Exercise into your Day
Don’t like or feel like you have time to go to the gym? The good news is exercise does not have to involve getting on a treadmill or pumping iron at the gym to be effective. It can be relatively low cost and not a huge time investment. However, before you start, check with your doctor if you have not exercised in awhile or if you are pregnant. Also, make sure you are wearing proper footwear for your activity. Many joint or back injuries are caused by wearing old or worn-out shoes. Here are ten ways to get moving:
- Park away from your office, trip to the store or school and walk. These small walks add up through the day. In fact, studies have shown that small bursts of exercise throughout the day are more effective than one long burst.
- Take the steps instead of the elevator. If you are going between floors, walk up the steps. Need a quick break in the afternoon – walk up and down a few times. Exercise will revive you much more than a trip to the coffee machine.
- Wear a fitness tracker and measure your steps. There are many inexpensive trackers as well as more sophisticated and pricey devices but even the inexpensive will give you data on steps. Set a goal and stick to it. For the first few days, wear it without changing your activity. Once you create a baseline, add 500 to 1000 steps per day to it each week.
- Use apps to get inspired. Studies have shown that like fitness trackers, individuals who utilize apps are more successful at sticking with an exercise program. There are apps like 5K that inspire and lead you from couch to 5K. My Fitness Pal and ActivX are a few other popular fitness apps.
- Sign up for a charity walk or run and use it to inspire you to get moving. Whether it is 1mile, a 5 or 10K, it gives you a goal and a deadline to work toward.
- Grab a buddy or two. People are far more likely to stick to a routine if they have another person who is going to do it with them and hold them accountable. Making fitness social gives the extra benefit of connecting with others.
- Have a family or office challenge. It does not 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, hiking, swimming or a fun group exercise class you have always been curious about.
- Make fitness a weekly family activity. Go on a hike, bike ride or walk around the neighborhood.
- Household activities like gardening, cleaning or other projects can be great chances to get the blood flowing. Put on upbeat music to keep you moving energetically.