By now, we understand the health benefits of getting regular exercise. So why don’t we just get up and do it already?
It’s easy to fall back on the standard list of excuses: “I don’t have the time,” “I can’t get motivated,” “I have too many family commitments.” Whatever our reasons, the good news is even moderate amounts of physical activity can go a long way. And let’s remember: Inactivity comes with a long list of health risks associated with metabolic syndrome, including high blood pressure, diabetes and depression.
A recent study by researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) showed that men are nearly twice as active as women. Paul Loprinzi, Ph.D., assistant professor at Bellarmine University, and Bradley Cardinal, Ph.D., professor at OSU, studied a national sample of 1,000 men and women, and found that men get, on average, at least 30 minutes of daily exercise, while women fall short with just 18 minutes.
While the study did not address why women weren’t getting enough exercise, the authors report that physical activity patterns often begin in childhood.
Cardinal recommends that women get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. Just getting closer to that daily regimen pays off with benefits for women’s physical and mental health. Studies by the American Heart Association suggest physical activity — even in 10- to 15-minute intervals throughout the day — have the same health benefits as one longer workout session.
Sharlyn Gehrs is a Seattle-based freelance writer and editor.
July’s List: 10 Tips for Starting a Fitness Routine
With the weather warming up, now is the perfect time to take small steps to get moving and build lasting healthy habits. Check out these 10 ideas for starting (and sticking to) a fitness routine.
- Start small: Add extra movement to your day by taking the stairs, parking in a spot farther from a store entrance or stretching during commercials.
- Choose an activity you enjoy: You can walk for hours without even realizing it at the places you enjoy the most, such as the zoo, a museum or a neighborhood park.
- Have fun with the family: Organize an “outdoor” day with the kids or plan a car-free day doing everything from errands to picnics.
- Be realistic: Something is better than nothing. Don’t give up if you’ve lapsed a little from your exercise regimen. Consider ways you can effectively use an extra 10 or 15 minutes.
- Set goals: Write down your fitness goals — even one as simple as “Get moving!” — and post them in a prominent place.
- Track your progress: Use a pedometer to monitor your steps and set goals to improve your average daily steps. You’ll be surprised to find how much fun competing with yourself can be.
- Motivate others: to move Catch up with a friend over a brisk walk or hold a “walking” meeting at work. Research shows a connection between exercise and increased brain function, so you can give your mind a workout, too.
- Make physical activity a habit: Start with your favorite activities and gradually increase intensity and frequency.
- Mix it up: Join a fitness class, put on some music and turn up the volume — or volunteer to help clean up your neighborhood. Just move!
- Challenge yourself: Once you’ve accomplished your small goals, setting your sights on completing an event such as a 5K race or community walk will give your daily workouts more meaning.