Take Control – Move More

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I hope you’ve had a GREAT start to your new year! Last month, I shared about setting goals, specifically about setting goals to help reach a healthier YOU this year. This is possible with applying the 5 skills I shared last month and setting SMART goals (see Take Control in the New Year for more details). One area that would help you achieve your health goals is being active and reducing inactivity for a healthier lifestyle. Moving more or being physically active is important for EVERYBODY, regardless of age, ability, or body size. If a chronic condition limits your physical capabilities, be as active as your ability and condition allows. Before starting or increasing your physical activity level consult your doctor.

There are long-term benefits to being regularly physically active like preventing chronic conditions and diseases. Other benefits are short-term, such as feeling better immediately after you do it. Technology has made life easier but it has also made it easier to be inactive. We need to be mindful of opportunities for moving our bodies more during the day. There are many ways to move more and be less sedentary. Every movement counts, no matter how big or small! Even small amounts of activity add up to big benefits. Daily activities like taking the stairs, doing laundry, playing with children or pets throughout the day, or even parking at the back of the parking lot are examples of ways to be active during the day. These activities are typically low-intensity movements where you can talk through the task. Even though these are low-intensity, these activities add up throughout the day, burn calories, and can contribute to your health. As you start to move more you can also incorporate exercise or planned and structured activity; all of these build to physical fitness. There are three components to physical activity and each component is important.

Aerobic Fitness is the ability of the body’s heart and lungs to supply oxygen to your body during sustained physical activity. Examples of exercises that increase aerobic fitness are swimming, biking, walking, dancing, water aerobics, and even pushing a lawnmower. How much aerobic activity should you get? For health benefits, adults need at least: 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. This may sound like a lot, but you don’t have to do it all at once. Keep in mind this is the amount you need for the whole week. 150 minutes of moderate activity is 30 minutes, 5 days a week. For more ideas to be active, go to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services website.

Muscular Strengthening is the ability of the muscles to exert force during an activity and continue to perform without fatigue. Examples of exercises that increase muscular strength are lifting weights and doing push-ups. Muscle-strengthening activities or resistance training can improve your ability to carry out daily physical tasks, help lower blood pressure, reduce back pain, improve your bone density, decrease your risk for osteoporosis; and, reduce your risk of diabetes. How much muscle-strengthening should you do? Healthy adults should perform at least one set of 8-12 repetitions of exercises for each major muscle group of the body at least 2 times a week, on non-consecutive days.

Flexibility Exercise are those that require reaching, bending, and stretching. It’s the ability of the joints to move through a range of motion, for example reaching to get something off the top shelf or bending down to pick something up. A lack of flexibility may make it harder to be physically active or even to do regular day-to-day activities. There are many benefits to adding flexibility activities to your week:

  • Greater freedom of movement,
  • Improved posture
  • Increased physical and mental relaxation
  • Reduced muscle tension and soreness
  • Reduced risk of injury

Adults should do flexibility exercises at least 2 to 3 days per week. Stretch to a point of tightness, without causing discomfort. Hold each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and do NOT bounce. Do 2 to 4 repetitions for each stretch. Before doing any aerobic or muscle-strengthening activities, you should warm-up and do a quick stretch. Visit the Exercise Library of the American Council on Exercise for exercise movements and proper form.

When becoming and staying active, be sure to listen to your body. Activity may cause soreness. Being sore is a sign that your muscles have worked more than normal and are getting stronger. But if you feel pain, STOP. Pain is a sign that you have done too much. The most important thing is to be good to yourself and to listen to your body, start slow and slowly add on. You’re doing this to improve your health and to feel great. You want to push yourself to do more, without trying to do too much all at once. You want to stay healthy, not risk an injury. Being physically active is a lifelong journey…Enjoy the journey!!!

“To enjoy the glow of good health, you must exercise”
Gene Tunney

This information is provided by the SNAP-Ed Steps to Health – Take Control Program and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.