Fitness choices that fit
Happy feelings come out when you're more active. But the benefits don't stop with the smile on your face. Just 30 minutes of walking, for example, can lower your blood sugar. Your off-the-couch activities can also help you slim your waistline, boost your energy, connect with family and friends, and meet new people.
The trick is finding the right activity to keep you motivated. Listed below are a variety of activities to try, insight on which may be best for you, and tips on getting started. It is always a good idea to check with your doctor before changing your level of activity.
Why you might love it: You'll be surprised by what a social activity walking can be. You'll find yourself connecting with neighbors and discovering new things about your neighborhood. Plus, it's free and easy, and you can do it at your own pace.
Why you might not: If you have hip or knee pain, you may want to try something like stationary biking or swimming, which won't put as much stress on joints.
Benefits: Even after a few outings, you'll start to feel small changes, such as your legs strengthening. After a while, your legs will look more toned and your clothes may fit looser. Walking also helps build strong bones. Plus, you may sleep better and feel like you have more energy.
How to get started: Begin with 5 minutes a day at a slow but steady pace. Try walking to the end of the block and back. If you're not used to walking, you may feel a little sore, but warm baths help and it will subside. Bring water to keep hydrated.
Why you might love it: Yoga is easy for beginners because you can adjust the moves to your comfort level. It's good if you prefer low-impact indoor activities. There's not a lot of jarring and it's good for someone who wants to improve flexibility. It's also for the person who wants to relax and de-stress.
Why you might not: Yoga may not be for someone who feels embarrassed in a class-type setting. If you're looking for something fast paced, it's not yoga.
Benefits: After a few classes, you'll be able to move better and you'll feel more flexible. In addition, yoga has been shown to help control blood sugar levels along with helping breathing and circulation.
How to get started: In addition to gyms, community centers often offer low-cost or free classes. Ask the instructor if you can take a class for free to see if you like it. Or check out yoga DVDs from the library to try at home.
Why you might love it: Because there are a variety of types of dance, you can find one to suit your activity level—and match your favorite music. You can dance in your house or show off your moves at a club. There's always something new you can learn.
Why you might not: If you're easily embarrassed or rhythmically challenged, dancing may not be for you.
Benefits: You'll learn more about your body and how to use it. It's also a way to break down social barriers. It doesn't matter what kind of body type you have when you're enjoying the music on the dance floor.
How to get started: Even if you don't dance, you can turn on music, snap your fingers, and tap your feet. Even that little bit of activity will help burn calories.
Why you might love it: You set your own workout schedule instead of being tied to a particular class or gym hours. By doing it at home, you avoid gym crowds and self-consciousness. Plus, it's cheap.
Why you might not: If you need the motivation of a coach or friends, you may not do as much of the activity as you should to reap the potential health benefits. You will need to find a source, such as a book or video, to ensure that you're doing the moves with the correct form. Otherwise, you won't get as much benefit and could risk hurting yourself.
Benefits: Because you don't need to leave home, this is a good choice for people who have busy lifestyles. The benefits you get will depend on how much time you can devote. But if you can sneak in 30 minutes a day, you're likely to lose weight and feel increased energy.
How to get started: Find 3 or 4 at-home activities you enjoy doing and work with your health care team to design your own workout plan. Examples: bicep curls with vegetable cans, walking lunges, walking up and down stairs, and bicycle kicks while lying down. You can split your workouts into parts, with 10 to 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening. For proper form, get a book from the library. Some cable TV networks offer fitness channels that show you how to do such activities, too.
Why you might love it: Swimming is an activity you'll be able to enjoy the rest of your life and receive the fitness benefits with none of the impact of other activities. Plus, extra weight, joint problems, or a dislike for sweat won't hold you back from regular activity!
Why you might not: If you're uncomfortable being in swimwear around others, swimming may not be for you.
Benefits: Swimming laps can burn as many calories as running but doesn't have the bone-jarring impact of every step. It's also easy to vary the intensity and duration of a session.
How to get started: Try to get to the pool about 3 times a week, and gradually increase your laps or time in the pool. Make only small increases of 10% to 15% from week to week. For example, if you can swim laps for 10 minutes, increase to 11 to 12 minutes the next week.
Track your activity with the Weekly Activity Tracker and
aim for 30 minutes of movement each day!