Some habits are worth breaking, but exercise, which can lengthen and improve your life, is a habit worth making. Getting started with an effective exercise can be challenging, especially if you aren't quite sure how to, or where to, begin. Here's how you can learn to get into the groove of working out for improved health, sleep, weight management, and physical energy.
There's a Plan for Everyone
Making exercise a habit starts with setting aside some time every day. It doesn't have to be a lot of time; half an hour a day is a good way to start. That 30 minutes can be filled with the kind of movements that suit your body and your personality best. Here are some examples:
- A brisk walk
- Training with weights, doing sit-ups, push-ups, and other muscle-strengthening exercises
- A 15-minute walk and 15 minutes of muscle-strengthening
- A 10-minute walk + 10 minutes of sit-ups, push-ups, and weights + another 10-minute walk
If you don't have 30 minutes to set aside all at one time, that's OK! You can do 10 minutes of fast walking or strength training three times a day. Think about walking up and down the stairs at your place of work for 10 minutes in the morning, during lunch, and before you head home. That's 30 minutes right there, no fancy equipment or memberships required.
According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), the minimum requirements for adults is 2.5 hours of moderate activity per week and muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days a week. Many activities fall into the "moderate" category, include gardening, walking 3 miles per hour, and ballroom dancing. Hiking uphill slowly or wearing a heavy backpack while hiking on the flat qualifies as "vigorous," as does swimming laps, playing tennis, and jumping rope.
Weather, the neighborhood in which you live, the need to travel for work, and family obligations can all seem like barriers to making exercise a habit. But for every obligation or impediment, there's a solution. Invite your family to join you for walks. If you live in a neighborhood where walking is difficult or unsafe, but work someplace where there are sidewalks or even a park nearby, get off the bus or train a mile or two from your place of work and walk the rest of the way.
If there's a gym near your office, ask clients to meet you for an early lunch or dinner so you can spend some time in the gym afterward. Some workout centers, including the YMCA, offer sliding-scale membership fees and a variety of ways to work out safely, from equipment to swimming pools and classes. Some will even allow your children to play while you get the exercise you need. Some martial arts schools offer sliding scales or work exchange programs. There's also an ever-growing number of groups for dancing, walking, and hiking that organize online; membership is usually public, and the cost for participation is minimal or free.
The Benefits of Regular Exercise
Whichever exercise you choose, you're forming a habit that helps maximize your health -- not just for today, but for years and even decades down the road. Numerous studies have shown that including exercise in your routine can greatly reduce your chances of getting diseases like diabetes. Whether or not you have high blood sugar now, small changes -- 30 minutes per day of walking, using sugar substitutes, buying fruit instead of candy and chips -- can quite literally change your life.
Women and men, older adults, and children all benefit from making exercise a habit. Pregnant women and women of childbearing ages can help set the course of their baby's life by gaining health for themselves through diet, and exercise. Older adults, children, and pregnant or recently pregnant women all have special exercise needs. For maximum health and safety, members of those special groups should consult with their health care providers or follow the CDC guidelines when choosing their exercise routines.
Habits may be hard to break, but a habit that leads to better health is worth making, and worth keeping up with today, tomorrow, and every day you want to live well, healthy, and happy.