By now we’ve all heard about the many benefits of an active lifestyle. But what exactly is an active lifestyle and what steps can we take to become more active?
Any regular physical activity that gets you up and moving can help support an active lifestyle. These activities could be as simple as walking or as intense as training for a marathon. It’s important that each individual assess their fitness level and incorporate activities appropriate with their level. Start slow to make it easier for the activity to become part of your daily routine. This requires consistency and discipline, and this is usually where the challenge comes in.
Why become more active?
Let’s face it, we all want the most out of life. Incorporating daily physical activity into our routine has benefits which go far beyond the activity itself. These benefits include:
- Improved quality of life. Being active enhances your ability to perform daily tasks, reduces fatigue, and increases your stamina. It opens doors to new experiences and hobbies, allowing you to engage more fully in life.
- Improved overall health. Physical activity helps lower your risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Being active can help you control your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, lower your cholesterol, and strengthen bones and muscles. This will help prevent osteoporosis and reduce your risk for falls.
- Improved mood and mental state. Activity can reduce or prevent depression and stress, and help improve your sleep. Studies show regular exercise helps prevent various age-related diseases and cognitive decline.
- Social Connections. An active lifestyle may involve participation in sports, group fitness classes, or outdoor activities; many of which can create opportunities for social interactions.
- Role Modeling. Living an active lifestyle sets a positive example for others, especially children. By prioritizing regular exercise, you become a role model for your family, friends, and community. Inspiring others to lead healthier lives can have a ripple effect, creating a positive impact on society as a whole.
How can I become more active?
Start by setting realistic goals. Maybe it’s walking for 30 minutes without becoming short of breath, losing some weight, or running a mile in under 10 minutes. Be reasonable and avoid putting too much pressure on yourself with unrealistic goals.
- Keep a log of your activity and progress. Include the kind of activity, how long you did it and your progress over time. Monitoring your daily steps using one of the commercially available fitness trackers is a fun way of seeing our progress in real-time.
- Look for active opportunities during the day. Activity does not have to mean structured exercise. You can become more active by making simple behavioral changes like parking as far from the entrance of buildings as possible when you run errands, walking or riding a bike instead of driving, taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
What are some tips to help stay on track?
Start slow and work up. Break your activities up by doing a few minutes at a time. Remember that some physical activity is better than none. Stand more than you sit. Your body uses more energy when you stand, so stand when you can, even if you cannot walk around.
Challenge yourself as your conditioning improves. More rigorous forms of physical activity such as hiking, running, lifting weights, tennis, swimming, jumping rope, cycling, or playing your favorite recreational sport can all be built into our daily routine.
Ask for support from the people in your life. Go for a walk after dinner with your family. Meet friends at the park. Take a break with a coworker and enjoy a walk.
Becoming more active literally begins with your first step. Take it and build upon it over time. Find something you enjoy, stick with it, and make it part of your lifestyle.
You can do it - Make it fun!