Have you been thinking about starting an exercise routine, but unsure where to start? Are you contemplating whether it is worth your time and effort, having been discouraged from prior experiences? Regular exercise boasts so many health benefits, but it can seem like a chore to get moving or find something you enjoy. We live in a society that promotes sedentary behaviors and our schedules can be quite busy. However, physical activity is an invaluable part of our physical and mental health.
Benefits of physical activity
There are numerous health benefits to be gained from regular physical activity. These include:
- Reduced risk for chronic disease
- Improved cognition
- Increased energy and stamina
- Reduced depression and/or anxiety
- Weight management
- Improved mobility
- Maintained bone density
- Increased muscle strength and endurance
- Improved sleep
- Improved blood sugar levels
- Increased flexibility
- Reduced blood pressure
- And many, many more…
Getting Started with Your Exercise Regimen
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity per week.
If you’re just starting out, this number may seem a bit daunting, especially if your day-to-day schedule is already quite packed. The key to creating a plan that sticks is finding one that will work for you personally. Here are some ideas for getting started:
- Identify areas of opportunity throughout your day to simply sit less. Due to advances in technology most people spend most of their day sitting, which has been shown to create its own risk factors for chronic diseases. Increase your awareness about how you spend your time daily. If you like to spend afternoons reading, try an audiobook and take headphones on a walk to change things up. Do you find you get lost aimlessly scrolling your phone for hours? Try setting time limits for certain applications on your phone and use this free time for a physical activity of choice.
- Start small! Any amount of physical activity can be beneficial. Try parking further away, taking the stairs, or choose to use a bathroom on the opposite side of the building. Stand up during phone conversations or try marching in place while you’re waiting for food to warm up during lunch. There are plenty of ways to add small amounts of movement into existing routines.
- Don’t have 30 uninterrupted minutes for an organized workout? No problem! Try adding in short bursts throughout the day. Start with a 10-minute walk during your day (before work, during lunch, after dinner, etc.). You can build onto this time if your schedule allows. If not, look for another 10-minute opportunity to add in as well.
- Do something enjoyable to you. We must care about how physical activity makes us feel if we want to sustain a lifetime of it. You have the power to make choices about how you move to set yourself up for success. If you don’t like to dance, don’t make Zumba your activity of choice. Find a way to move your body that feels good to you, mentally and physically, for a more maintainable habit.
If you’re just starting out, 150 minutes doesn’t have to be your goal this week or even next week. Exercise can be a gift, rather than a chore, when you empower yourself by making a choice to move in a way that feels good to you. Make it a goal to sit less, move more, and work your way up as you find a rhythm that works for you.
If you have more questions about starting an exercise regimen, it’s always a great idea to speak with a registered dietitian. Registered dietitians are the only credentialed experts qualified to address your unique health questions.
Note to readers: The information discussed in this blog is not intended to replace medical advice. Please meet with your physician and dietitian before making any changes to your diet or starting a new exercise regimen.
Kim Meeuwsen, RDN, CSOWM is a registered dietitian and Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management from West Michigan. Kim has over 10 years of experience providing nutrition care to both inpatients and outpatients in acute care and rehabilitation settings. Her experience is diverse, counseling families and patients with various disease states across the lifespan. Kim’s passion is promoting and teaching health optimization with food first.
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