A man out for a run. AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos
The best way to hold off the effects of aging, maintain fitness, keep a trim body, upkeep the immune system, stave off disease, and gain a good sense of self efficacy is to participate in regular and consistent physical activity.
You may want to evaluate your exercise patterns if you fit into any of the following situations:
- You only get physical activity on the weekends (Weekend Warrior)
- You have hired a trainer, but you rarely meet with him or her, and you don't follow their instructions.
- You lie to your friends, family, or trainer about your true level of activity.
- You float from one workout routine to another without ever committing fully to any of them.
- You can't remember the last time you worked out
- You get winded walking up a flight of stairs
- Your resting heart rate is above 80 bpm
- You never have energy
While some exercise is better than no exercise, irregular patterns of activity do not keep the body in a fit state, and it can set the individual up for serious injury. Regular activity does not need to consist of structured exercise at the gym. Check out this activity pyramid for ideas of what should be done daily, 3-5 days/week, 2 days/week, and rarely.
Follow these steps for incorporating regular activity into your life:
- Start slow by only adding 3 days a week of exercise. This exercise can be walking around the neighborhood, park, or mall for 30 min.
- Go for the less convenient options when possible. Park your car further away from stores, ride a bike or walk instead of driving, use the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, and go out for picnics instead of restaurants.
- Add small bursts of exercise. Do squats during the commercials, do a set of push-ups when you wake up, do 10 jumping jacks during your lunch break, and do a set of crunches before bed.
- Once you have become consistent at 3 days/week of regular exercise (usually takes about 6 weeks to a couple months) add another day. Continue to slowly progress until you are active about 5 days/week through your life.
- Find a friend or group to be active with. Most people are more consistent when they have someone to hold them accountable.
- Constantly remind yourself why exercising and being active is important to you (you want to live a high quality life, you want to be fit, you want to be a role model, you want to be a runner, you want to control a disease/disorder, etc)