Exercise. It’s been endorsed by every major health organization in the country as one of the most beneficial things you can do for your body.
One half hour of moderate physical activity a day is the key to better health, they say. The best diet in the world can only go so far in helping you lose weight. To really see the effects of changing your eating habits (in lost pounds and inches, that is), you need to rev up your body with physical exercise.
So why does the word bring a collective groan to dieters around the world? Maybe it’s our mistaken impression that exercise is a chore, and a boring, painful one at that. Here are ten ways to exercise that should get rid of that impression for good, and make exercise something you can look forward to:
1. Take a walk through a favorite place. One half hour of moderately paced walking will burn 450 calories - and make you feel great. Make sure that you’re wearing comfortable shoes, and pick a venue you enjoy. Try a walk around the lake, up and down the block or around the mall - your body doesn’t know the difference.
2. Play ball! Seriously. If your company has a sports team (softball, anyone?), join up.
3. Go out and play a game of tag with your kids. Making exercise a family activity turns it into fun that you share with them. Besides being good for your body, you’re instilling good habits in them, and creating happy memories that will stay with them for life.
4. Go swimming. An annual membership to the local YMCA or YWCA is fairly inexpensive, and many have ‘scholarships’ and financial aid available. Swimming is great exercise - it’s aerobic, low stress on your joints, and a lot of fun!
5. Join an exercise class. You can turn exercise into a social activity by becoming part of a class. Besides making friends, you’re more likely to exercise if you’re paying for it.
6. Get an exercise buddy. It’s partly the same principle as joining a class - turn exercise into a social activity. In addition to that, making a commitment to a friend for a daily exercise date will make it far more likely that you’ll stick to it.
7. Get a trampoline. Mini-trampolines are easy to set up, store in small spaces and provide a stress-free surface on which to bounce, dance and have a lot of fun.
8. Go for a bike ride. Even leisurely bike-riding burns calories and exercises muscles that don’t get used in regular walking. No need for an exercise ‘routine’ - just ride your bike to the store, or back and forth to work each day.
9. Take up a new active hobby. Would you believe that gardening is exercise? Bending and stretching and digging and weeding - half an hour of energetic work in your garden burns more calories than a brisk walk.
10. Challenge yourself. If you’re the kind of person who thrives on competition, challenge yourself to meet a new goal each week. Walk one more block. Do six more sit-ups. Take the stairs each day instead of the elevator. Goal-setting to meet challenges is a great way to commit to exercise.
Revision date: June 11, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD