Exercise may seem like a chore, but being active will make you happier and healthier in the long run. The more you move, the more calories you burn, which helps with weight loss and maintenance. Other reasons to be active go beyond the weight-related benefits and include:
- Improved mood and mental health
- Protection against heart disease, cancer, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and other chronic conditions
- Better sleep
- More energy
Your level of physical activity can be broken down into categories, based on the amount of light or moderate activity you get daily.
A sedentary person gets less than 30 minutes of moderate activity per day. A sedentary lifestyle increases risks for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancer and obesity.
Start with where you are and pick a goal that’s achievable for you. For example, try a 10-minute walk four days a week. Gradually increase the time to a 30-minute walk or two 15-minute walks each day.
A person in the Low Active category gets an average of 30 to 60 minute of moderate activity per day.
With a little dedication, a low-active person can become more active. Pick one or two activities you enjoy like biking, swimming and/or recreational sports, and incorporate them more often into your week.
Support yourself by scheduling activity in your calendar. If you plan to exercise after work, try packing your gym bag the evening before, and bring it with you to work, so you have no excuses.
A person in the Active category gets more than 60 minutes of moderate physical activity daily.
An active person is typically receiving the full benefits of a consistent exercise program, including attaining or maintaining a healthy weight and improved mood, energy and sleep.
To maintain this level of activity, it’s important to avoid burnout. Try tweaking your workout every now and then, so it continues to stimulate your brain and body. If you love cardio, try working some intervals into your sessions. For resistance training, try some supersets: Do an upper body set, then without resting, do a lower body set, continuing to switch back and forth between opposing muscle groups.
A person in the Very Active category gets more than 60 minutes of moderate physical activity each day along with more than 60 minutes of light activity each day.
A very active person is typically receiving the full benefits of a consistent exercise program, but may also require additional fuel to adequately support his or her workout. Try “bookending” your workouts with food. Pre-workout, try a food with carbohydrate plus a little protein (like apples with peanut butter) to supply energy to your working muscles. Post-workout, have a carbohydrate-rich meal with more protein (like a black bean burger) to replenish the energy stores used while working out.
Overall frequency is important: Allow physical activity (of any kind — from walking and gardening to running, swimming and lifting weights) to be your “me” time, mood booster and stress reducer. Aim to be active every day, and reap the health benefits of an active lifestyle.