150 Minutes of Exercise a Week? Piece of (sugar-free) Cake!: 10 Ways to Get Moving
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Darcy White demonstrates forearm plank with an up-level: raising one leg to hip height. Photo credit Alex L. White
Last week, we explored the benefits of exercise. Now it’s time to move. It’s never too late to start. Every bit counts. Everyone benefits—no matter how young, how old, how healthy, or how debilitated.
The federal government has established guidelines for physical activity. Here are the basic requirements for adult fitness:
- Each week, fit in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise-- activities like jogging and cycling that increase heart and respiratory rate to the extent you carry on brief conversations but can’t sing. Alternatively, you can engage in 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise, which entails elevating your heart and breathing rate high enough that you can’t chat.
- Muscle-strengthening activities (also called resistance-training) (also called strength-training) at least two days a week. You can lift weights, use elastic bands, shovel snow, and work against your body weight (e.g., do push-ups and pull-ups).
- Flexibility, agility, and balance also contribute to fitness. Warm up your muscles, then gently guide muscles and joints through their full range of motion. Activities that cover these bases include dance, yoga, and tai chi. Yoga and Pilates increase strength and flexibility.
Now comes the part where you leap the gap between knowing and doing…instead of tumbling into the den to watch TV. Here are ten tips for starting and sticking with an exercise plan:
- Identify and bust barriers. Many come in the form of excuses. “I don't have time.” You’re busier than the President of the United States? “Spandex makes my butt look big.” Don’t wear Spandex. Anyway, most people are too preoccupied with their own backsides to think much about yours. “I don’t have a gym membership.” You don’t need one. Go for a brisk walk. Jump rope. Dance to music. Do push-ups. “I’m too old.” Click here.
- Find an activity you enjoy. Skate, skip, ski, cycle, learn to tap dance.
- Recognize that you can break the recommended 30 daily minutes of aerobic activity a day into 10-minute chunks.
- Build activity into your routine. Park a few blocks farther from your destination. Take the stairs, not the elevator. Commute on foot or bike.
- Get over the myth that exercise must be strenuous to be effective. Numerous studies prove that walking works wonders.
- If you have a chronic health condition, get medical clearance from your doctor before staring a new exercise program.
- Start slowly and gradually build strength and endurance. Doing too much too soon will leave you sore and, quite likely, discourage.
- Chart your progress. Doing so comes in useful if you’re trying to lose weight or increase speed, endurance, and strength.
- Allow for setbacks. Everyone has them.
- Reward progress--but not by slumping on the couch to watch a double feature and eat a pound of nachos.
While there’s no simple remedy to make you instantly fit, I recommend forearm plank as a way to tone the major muscle groups, especially your core muscles. If you have back pain, discuss this exercise with your doctor first. Otherwise, check out the photo above and follow the directions.
Drop onto your knees and lay your forearms on the ground so that they form the number “11.” For more support, clasp your hands, while keeping your elbows under your shoulders. Push onto your toes and straighten your legs. Your buttocks should neither sag nor poke up higher than your shoulders. The same goes for your head. In other words, look like a plank of wood. Hold for 20 seconds or more. Rest 30 seconds. Repeat at least three times. To up-level, lift one leg to hip height, hold, set it down, and repeat on the other side.
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