Exercise your Way to Health

One of the best things you can do for your health is to find an activity that gets your body moving and stick with it. According to the National Women’s …

Lower risk of getting heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and diabetes;

Lower high blood pressure;

Help keep bones, muscles, and joints healthy;

Reduce anxiety and depression;

Improve mood;

Help with handling stress;

Help with weight control;

Protect against falling and bone fractures in older adults;

Help control joint swelling and pain from arthritis;

Improve energy levels, sleep, and appearance.

People with disabilities who become physically active under their doctor’s guidance can improve their heart, lungs, muscles, and bones, while gaining improved flexibility, mobility, and coordination. Besides these factors, increased physical activity contributes greatly to weight loss. People who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, breathing problems, arthritis, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea (breathing problems while sleeping), osteoarthritis, and some cancers.

While Cardiovascular conditioning, stretching exercises for flexibility, and resistance exercises or calisthenics all contribute to muscle strength and endurance, even 30 minutes of moderately-intensity and above-usual daily physical activity at work or home lowers the risk of chronic disease. Be sure to start with small sessions and work up, warming up for 5 to 10 minutes.

Wear proper shoes and clothing and drink water before, during, and after exercise. At the end of your physical activity, cool down by decreasing the intensity of your activity so your heartbeat returns to normal and be sure to stretch muscles. If your chest feels tight or painful, or you feel faint or have trouble breathing at any time, stop the activity right away and talk to your health care provider.

If your feet or joints hurt when you stand, non-weight-bearing activities may be best for you. Such activities include swimming or water workouts, and they put less stress on joints because you don’t have to lift or push your own weight. Pat yourself on the back for trying, even if you can’t complete the workout the first time. It may be easier the next time — so try again! Remember, moving any part of your body — even for a short time — can make you healthier.

Choose a variety of fun activities, so that you don’t get bored. Even housework, gardening, doing yard work, or walking the dog gets you moving. If you can’t set aside one block of time, do short activities during the day, such as three, 10-minute walks. Create opportunities for activity, such as parking your car farther away, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or walking down the hall to talk to a co-worker instead of using e-mail.

Don’t let cold weather keep you on the couch, but do exercise to a workout video, join a sports league, or get a head start on your spring cleaning by channeling your workout energy into cleaning out closets or washing windows. Vary your walking route to stave off boredom and exercise with a friend or family member for company. If you have children, make time to play with them outside. Set a positive example!

Make activities into social occasions — have dinner after you and a friend work out. Set specific, short-term goals, and reward yourself when you achieve them. Don’t feel badly if you don’t notice body changes right away. Make activity a regular part of your day, so it becomes a habit. Read books or magazines to inspire you.

Talk to your health care provider before you start any physical activity if you have heart disease, have had a stroke, or are at high risk for them, have diabetes, or are at high risk for it, are obese (body mass index of 30 or greater), have an injury (like a knee injury), are pregnant, or are older than age 50.

Remember, don’t just sit around waiting to feel or look better, get moving and pursue your goals. Adding even a small amount of exercise to your normal day’s activities moves you another step closer to looking and feeling your best.