Many people regard exercise as a recreational activity rather than a requirement for good health. Experts agree that many common health problems, including obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, depression, and heart disease can be prevented or managed with good nutrition and a routine of regular physical activity. From childhood through old age, everyone needs to make physical activity part of his or her daily life. For children, exercise builds strong bones and muscles, improves concentration and learning ability, and prevents excess weight gain. Adults who exercise regularly can enjoy their lives, control weight, and remain strong and active as they age.
Our bodies need exercise like they need sleep. Just as sleeping late on Saturday morning does not make up for a week of sleep deprivation, a burst of vigorous exercise once a week cannot replace regular daily physical activity. If you have difficulty fitting exercise into your busy days, change your attitude. Treat your exercise routine as seriously as you do an important business meeting or getting to work on time. Physical activity is an investment in your wellbeing, now and in the future.
Any amount of exercise is good for you. Regardless of your age or physical condition, you will quickly experience the benefits of moderate exercise: relief for stiff joints, more restful sleep, increased stamina, improved balance, and a brighter outlook on life. Start with a commitment to 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. Moderate physical activity encompasses anything that gets you up and moving. Gardening and cleaning count as moderate activity as long as you are doing something vigorous like raking leaves or scrubbing floors. If you have young children, play actively with them. Dance, swim, walk, or ride a bike. Instead of sitting on the couch, walk back and forth across the room while you watch your favorite 30-minute TV show. If you can't go to the gym or you miss your evening walk because of a thunderstorm, have back-up activities that you can do at home.
The 30 minutes can be broken up into several periods of exercise during the day, as long as you sustain the activity for a minimum of 10 minutes during each period. For example, you might walk your dog for 10 minutes in the morning, then take a brisk walk during your lunch break or go for a bike ride with your children in the evening. Don't let your good intentions lead you astray by embarking on an ambitious exercise program that you soon abandon because it exhausts you or takes up too much time. Create an enjoyable routine that fits into your daily schedule.
Once you are comfortable with daily physical activity, start adding or substituting more strenuous activities, such as jogging instead of walking. Carry water bottles or weights in your hands as you walk, and add some stretching at the end of your walk.
Exercise is essential for managing your weight. If you are eating moderately and exercising regularly for 30 minutes a day, and you are steadily gaining weight, you need to add more physical activity to your daily routine. A person who has lost a significant amount of weight may need as much as 90 minutes of exercise daily to maintain the weight loss.
If you exercise for 30 minutes but spend the rest of the day sitting, your health is still at risk. Recent studies indicate that people with sedentary jobs have shorter life spans and higher incidence of certain types of cancers than those whose work involves movement and physical activity. Our bodies were not designed to sit in chairs and air-conditioned cars all day. Movement improves circulation and helps cleanse waste products from body tissues. Make a habit of getting up and walking around throughout the day, rolling your shoulders, and moving your arms and legs while seated at your desk.