The human body was designed to move, yet many of us now scarcely stir, spending all day in sedentary jobs and then driving home for an evening of television, surfing the Web or video games.
Our modern entertainment habits and labor-saving devices — from cars to phones to elevators — are having disastrous effects on the national waistline. A quarter of us never engage in physical activity at all, according to the American Heart Association, while 60 percent of adults don't get enough exercise to keep fit.
The good news is that weight gain can often be avoided or reversed with regular physical activity. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Any activity that you enjoy and resolve to stick with is fine. "Exercise" doesn't have to mean pumping iron at the gym or engaging in competitive sports: It can be any physical activity, including washing the car or doing housework, that gets you moving and using energy.
It isn't even necessary to pack that 30 minutes of activity into a single burst; it can be achieved in shorter increments — such as three 10-minute sessions — throughout the day. Try to increase your physical activity in as many ways as you can. Below are some tips for doing just that, whether you're at work or at home.
- Walk to work, or at least get off the bus or train a stop early and finish the journey on foot. If you drive, try to park a distance from your office.
- Program regular breaks into your workday to move around the office.
- Take the stairs, not the elevator.
- Go for a 20-minute walk at lunchtime.
- Visit your colleagues in person, rather than calling or e-mailing them.
- Stand whenever possible (while on the phone, for example).
- Time to kill before an appointment? Try walking up and down the hall or doing some calf raises.
- Walk or ride a bike to the store instead of driving.
- Hide the TV remote, and get up to change the channel. Better still, turn off the TV and play with your kids, or take your dog for a run.
- Wash your car manually.
- Recruit an activity buddy: You're more likely to persevere if you exercise with some company.
- Keep comfortable shoes handy in the car; use them whenever an opportunity to exercise arises.
- Be sure to reward yourself when you reach your exercise goals.
Build it up
One half hour of moderate activity a day is usually all that's required to maintain adequate physical health. If you want to boost your cardiovascular fitness, gradually add more vigorous activity, like running, in-line skating or jumping rope, to your regimen until you've built up to 30- to 60-minutes sessions, three to four times a week.
10 reasons to get moving
- Need an excuse to get active? There are at least 10 that we can think of. Regular moderate exercise...
- Makes you feel better
- Helps boost your metabolism
- Burns off calories, aiding weight loss
- Tones muscles
- Helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers
- Improves sleep, promotes relaxation and combats depression
- Increases strength and flexibility
- Keeps bones healthy and prevents falls in the elderly
- Helps you maintain your desired weight for a lifetime