Exercise Doesn’t Have to be a Workout
For many people, the idea of walking into a gym filled with 20 somethings in little workout clothes hopping and grinding their way to a better bikini body can be intimidating enough to walk into the revolving doors and staying there until the door exits you back into the street. Same situation applies for the guys…grunting and pressing enormous weights with bodies that look like the Incredible Hulk can be very intimidating to the fellow who hasn’t worked out in years. Don’t despair! Some of the best forms of exercise really don’t have to be performed in a gym and the benefits of these activities can be fun, not expensive and reap many rewards. They can help you to keep your weight within normal range, strengthen your bones, improve your balance, motor and cognitive skills, protect you from cardiovascular disease, improve your blood pressure, decrease inflammation, improve joint pain, lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and help prevent urinary leakage and pelvic floor conditions.
For the persons who do not feel comfortable riding a bicycle, rollerblading or walking the golf course, there are other fun activities to get your heart pumping, your muscles and joints moving and your mind engaged. Raking the leaves in the yard, walking the dog, playing with the children or grandchildren all count as exercise. All it takes is 30 minutes per day…walk to the Starbucks for your latte instead of taking the car. You’ll get fresh air in your lungs, exercise, and have that caffeine treat. Then, you’ll walk back home and burn off the calories you just drank!
How do you determine how often and how long you should exercise? The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans state that unless you have an underlying medical condition that would restrict your activities, 150 minutes of moderate physical activity weekly, or 75 minutes of vigorous (lots of sweating) activity per week are appropriate. Combinations of the two are even better. Mixing it up will defeat boredom and overuse of muscle groups which can lead to injury over time.
Get the Green light from your doctor. If you haven’t had a basic physical exam in over a year, now is the best time to see your doctor, get a checkup and discuss activities. If you are over 65 years of age, some activities might not be appropriate for you to engage in at 100% (if you haven’t exercised in 20 years, you might not want to go outside and run 5 miles tomorrow). Be logical and check in with your body. Do you have joint pain, osteoarthritis in the knees that might limit certain types of aerobic activities? Do you have hypertension or a cardiac issue? Do you have COPD? All these questions are addressed during an annual physical. Once you’ve the green light to exercise and what levels of activity are appropriate for you, it’s up to you to decide what will be FUN.
Give Yourself a Reason WHY
Setting a goal is always a motivator when embarking on a lifestyle change. If you have always desired to run a 5K, 10K or marathon, you’ll need to make a plan – call it a project. There are many websites available that offer free training schedules for anyone who wants to begin a running program. They typically include warm ups, cool downs, nutritional information and weekly schedules to attain your goals. You can also go to ‘meet up’ and find some new workout buddies who have similar goals. New friendships and successful goals can be made with a buddy. If it’s a smaller dress or jean size, you might want to decide what modifications in your diet will help you attain that goal in addition to exercise so the weight will come off and stay off. One less glass of wine at dinner with the addition of daily 30min walks can make big changes over a short period of time. Whatever you decide to do, do it for YOU and do what makes YOU happy.
If you have no idea where to start at a gym, hire a personal trainer (get referrals from people you know and you’ve seen results). This is being paid to motivate you, find what gives you joy in exercise, make certain you are performing all activities correctly to prevent injury and hold you accountable in your daily, weekly and monthly goals. Sometimes, spending a little money goes a long way because if you don’t keep up with the program, you’ll be wasting your time, the trainer’s time and your good money. Fitness apps are abundant – whether it be for swimming to running to weight lifting, there’s an app for it. Check out your app store on your mobile device.
The Top 5 Exercises That Won’t Make You Feel Like You’re in The Army
Swimming. I advise all my patients (when appropriate) to swim. Swimming is the perfect exercise as it is non-impact on the joints, uses every muscle in the body and promotes better circulation and respiration. Swimming can be challenging if you’re doing laps and you will work up a sweat in the water. Take it down a notch and gentle strokes for a longer period of time will work just as well. Water aerobics can be fun and a great motivator to get you into the pool and don’t worry…no one is looking at your body because everyone is focused on their own goals.
Tai Chi. Tai Chi is the granddaddy of all martial arts. Done smoothly and slowly, it promotes circulation, meditation, relaxation and can help improve muscle tone and bone strength. Tai chi is ideal for the geriatric population, because it allows this genre to focus on movement. This improves balance and strength in older people who typically lose these qualities with age. Speed up the motions of Tai Chi and it becomes a deadly martial art. There are many organizations that offer Tai Chi from the local YMCA and senior center to martial arts centers. Sign up for a package of 10 classes to you can be accustomed to the movements. Once you’re there, you’ll be hooked!
Strength training. Weight lifting/strength training contrary to myth, will not make you look like the Incredible Hulk, unless that’s what your goal is. This type of activity will not only burn calories, it will help you build muscle tone and strengthen bones. It would behoove you to hire a personal trainer to get you started with a program where you will be under supervision to ensure you are performing the exercises correctly to prevent injury and to ensure all body parts are being used in the mix.
Walking. You don’t need a dog to walk. Walking is a great form of exercise. A brisk walk will help burn calories, increase your aerobic capacity and if you add 1lb weights in your hands (2 water bottles will suffice and help hydrate you simultaneously), you’ll get a little more bang for your time. Recently, I visited Washington, D.C. and decided to walk and see the sites. Over 6 miles later, I saw so many wonderful monuments and had such a good time, I decided to walk another 6 miles back to my hotel via a different route. At the end, I had 12 miles of exercise, saw the sites and had a smile on my face. Start slow and eventually try to walk faster and for longer periods of time. Volunteer to walk your neighbor’s dog. They are the cheapest and most fun exercise machine out there. And all the attention you’ll receive with Rover at your side!
Kegel exercises. These exercises are not just for post partum women. The muscles of the pelvic floor are often ignored and can lead to urinary incontinence, erectile dysfunction, painful sex and prolapse. You can be absolutely anywhere to do Kegels. Just pretend you’re holding your urine or preventing gas and squeeze the muscles you would use for this purpose. Then relax the muscles. Repeat this exercise 10 times. Work your way up to squeezing/releasing these muscles for 3 sets of 10 daily.
There are so many other activities to engage in: kayaking, sailing, baseball, soccer, basketball, tennis, pickleball, hiking – the sky’s the limit. Get out there today and get moving! Remember, exercise shouldn’t be a chore, it should be fun!