You’ve probably heard it time and again: exercise, exercise, exercise! Many people find it a lot easier to start incorporating healthy eating into a weight loss plan than they do exercise. Exercise can be physically demanding and feel difficult to add into our already hectic lifestyles. Sometimes the barriers can feel insurmountable! There are deadlines to meet at work, kids’ activities to rush to, dishes piled up in the sink, and exercise seems like a distant dream.
Studies show that exercise can help with weight loss and maintenance, improve mood, decrease stress and improve overall health, so incorporating exercise is a good idea!
The American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. That comes down to 30 minutes a day (of moderate exercise), five days a week or 25 minutes a day three days a week (of vigorous exercise). The good news is that you don’t have to do that all at once! You can divide that 30 minutes a day into three sessions of 10-15 minutes if you like. And if you can’t do 30 minutes right off the bat, that is ok too: start slow and make 30 minutes your goal to work up to. Remember any activity is better than no activity. You can also switch up between moderate and vigorous activity.
The American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommend muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week. These should exercise all of the major muscle groups (arms, shoulders, chest, abdomen, back, hips and legs). So what counts?
Moderate activity: you are pushing hard enough to break a sweat and increase your heart rate, but not as much as in vigorous exercise. You should still be able to talk, but not sing! Activities include:
- Fast walking
- Fast social dancing
- Water Aerobics
- Swimming laps
- Tennis (doubles)
- Bicycling (moderate effort)
Vigorous activity: you are really breaking a sweat here, and your breathing should be fast and hard! Your heart rate should be quite elevated. You won’t be able to carry on a conversation when exercising at this level. Activities include:
- Basketball game
- Soccer game
- Bicycling (vigorous effort)
Strength training activity: you are working your muscles until it is hard to do another repetition (one complete movement, like lifting a weight completely and returning it to its original position)
- Weight lifting
- Resistance bands
- Calisthenics (using your own body weight for resistance, for example pushups, sit-ups)
So where do I start?
- For many people, walking is the easiest place to start. Not only is this likely something you already do sometimes, it is easy to add into your routine. You can park ten minutes away from where you work for example, instead of getting the closest parking spot. This will add at least twenty minutes of exercise to your daily routine (ten minutes on your way to work, and ten minutes on your way home)! Add a ten-minute leisure walk around the neighborhood in the evening and you’ve done your thirty minutes!
- For weight training, start with 8-12 repetitions of an exercise: this counts as one set. Start with one set and work your way up to two or three sets. Try starting with Calisthenics: things like pushups, sit-ups, lunges, jumping jacks, crunches, squats, calf-raises and the plank. You don’t have to invest any money into these, as they do not require any equipment.
Remember, any movement is better than no movement! If all you can do for now is add an extra ten minutes of walking into your daily routine, go ahead and do it!