Regular exercise can help you shed excess pounds and maintain a healthy weight — risk factors for several health conditions — but the benefits don’t stop there. A commitment to fitness can also lower blood pressure, improve heart function and blood sugar control, alleviate depression, ensure good sleep, and decrease the risk of cancer.
Getting into shape doesn’t have to mean joining the gym! You can easily incorporate physical activities into your daily routine.Most adults should be doing a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise, at least five days a week, according to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Not only is physical activity an essential component of weight management, but it can also lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes, reduce cholesterol, alleviate arthritis pain, prevent or delay osteoporosis, and relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Those benefits aren’t limited to people who are able to exercise strenuously. Even a little bit of daily walking and physical activity has health benefits. As Dr. Joy says, “Physical activity is something everybody should build in, pretty much no matter what your health.” People of all ages and levels of fitness can benefit from regular physical activity done at a moderate level of intensity.
If you have a disability, regular exercise may improve your ability to do everyday tasks. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has established physical activity guidelines for adults with disabilities, recommending at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity physical activity, as well as muscle-strengthening activities, when possible.
For the new study, published this month in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham gathered 72 older, sedentary women, ages 60 to 74, and randomly assigned them to one of three exercise groups.
One group began lifting weights once a week and performing an endurance-style workout, like jogging or bike riding, on another day.Another group lifted weights twice a week and jogged or rode an exercise bike twice a week.
The final group, as you may have guessed, completed three weight-lifting and three endurance sessions, or six weekly workouts.The exercise, which was supervised by researchers, was easy at first and meant to elicit changes in both muscles and endurance. Over the course of four months, the intensity and duration gradually increased, until the women were jogging moderately for 40 minutes and lifting weights for about the same amount of time.
The researchers were hoping to find out which number of weekly workouts would be, Goldilocks-like, just right for increasing the women’s fitness and overall weekly energy expenditure.
Some previous studies had suggested that working out only once or twice a week produced few gains in fitness, while exercising vigorously almost every day sometimes led people to become less physically active, over all, than those formally exercising less. Researchers theorized that the more grueling workout schedule caused the central nervous system to respond as if people were overdoing things, sending out physiological signals that, in an unconscious internal reaction, prompted them to feel tired or lethargic and stop moving so much.
The important thing to remember is that these benefits can be achieved without spending hours pumping weights in a gym or pounding on a treadmill. Regular mild to moderate exercise can improve your life by:
Easing stress and anxiety. A twenty-minute bike ride won’t sweep away life’s troubles, but exercising regularly helps you take charge of anxiety and reduce stress. Aerobic exercise releases hormones that relieve stress and promote a sense of well-being.
Lifting your mood. Exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication. Exercise also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energizes your spirits and makes you feel good.
Sharpening brainpower. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.
Improving self-esteem. Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful.
Boosting energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more get-up-and-go. Start off with just a few minutes of exercise a day, and increase your workout as you feel more energized.
People sometimes overestimate their level of fitness and physical activity, says Joy. You need to honestly assess your fitness level, then work gradually to increase it. It’s best to start slowly, to prevent injury. Overexertion isn’t helpful, as it can have adverse effects. If you need to interrupt your exercise program because of illness, start at a lower level when you resume.
Here are the 13 everday exercises:
- Every Little Bit Counts
Most adults should be doing a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise, at least five days a week, according to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
- Hooray for Housework!
Whether you love or loathe housework, it can help you burn some serious calories and keep you in good shape.
- Walk It Off!
Brisk walking is a good way to get around town, boost your heart rate, and stay physically fit. Walking two miles in 30 minutes — or breaking up your route into short but vigorous 10-minute sessions — strengthens your bones and muscles and improves your stamina and your fitness.
- Get out in the Garden!
Making your garden beautiful is another good way to be physically active. Weeding, mowing, and gardening for 30 to 45 minutes can burn up to 200 calories.
- Wax On, Wax Off
Washing and waxing a car for 45 to 60 minutes is one of many activities that will burn calories and get your heart rate up. Before you head outside to clean and shine your car, though, make sure you give your body a warm-up stretch.
- Spin Your Wheels
If you need a wheelchair to get around, use it to your fitness advantage — wheeling yourself in your chair for 30 to 40 minutes can be a great workout!
- Baby Love
Taking your little one out for a walk allows for some bonding time and also helps you get into shape. Pushing a stroller a mile and a half in 30 minutes can help you get your pre-baby body back.
- Go for a Ride!
What mode of transportation is great for your health? A bicycle! Park the car and hop on your bike the next time you need to run errands. Cycling five miles in 30 minutes (or four miles in 15 minutes) is a perfect way to get your daily dose of cardio without putting too much stress on your knees.
- Yay for Yard Work!
Raking leaves for 30 minutes can really work your upper body. But don’t overdo it, especially if you don’t exercise frequently — you could injure yourself.
- Dance Like the Stars!
Kirstie Alley says that dancing around her living room helped her slim down to her new, hot physique. So why not put on your favorite CD or radio station and shake your booty for 30 minutes a day.
- Lap It Up
Swimming is an ideal workout. Dive in for this low-impact exercise that can relieve stress, improve posture, and tone your upper body. Swimming laps for 20 minutes a day builds endurance and strengthens your muscles. It’s also good for your heart and lungs and increases your flexibility.
- Get the Scoop!
If you live in a snowy region, the winter is a great time for you to squeeze in some exercise — you just need to shovel snow for 15 minutes! Make sure to spend a few minutes stretching out your cold muscles.
- Start Climbing!
Too busy to hit the Stairmaster? That’s okay — any staircase will do! If you set aside 15 minutes of your day to go up and down a set of steps, you can burn 150 calories.