In the winter, when you are stuck in your house, it can be hard to stay active and healthy. But now, spring is here. The weather is warming up. And it's the perfect time to get outside, get moving, and get into a regular exercise routine.
"Physical activity," or moving your body to stay healthy, is not only good for you but also can be good fun as well. So open your mind to getting healthy, and then open your front door. Because a whole world of activity is waiting right outside.
We've put together a list of lots of great thing to do outside. The key is to find something or some things that you really like, and keep doing them. This first list comes from WebMD.com with comments from Robyn Stuhr, director of the Women's Sports Medicine Center at New York's Hospital for Special Surgery.
Walking is one of the best lifetime sports. "It's easy on the joints, you don't need a lot of fancy equipment, and you can burn calories..." says Stuhr. And according to national guidelines, walking for 30 minutes, 5 days a week, at a brisk pace (about 4 mph) can help ward off diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Jogging is terrific for your heart and lungs, and it improves your stamina. If you're trying to lose weight, it can burn calories more quickly than walking. "On the negative side, running does put more stress on the joints – the knees, ankles, and hips," says Stuhr. The key is to start slowly and ease your way in to longer distances to avoid injury.
Not only is bicycling a great exercise for your heart, but you can really explore your community by riding to different neighborhoods or in parks, bike paths, or trails. Many people ride a bicycle to and from work. It's important to make sure your bike is fitted to your body or you'll put too much stress on your back or knees.
Swimming is also great for your heart and lungs. "It can help tone arms and legs, and it's very easy on the joints," says Stuhr. In fact, it's perfect for people who have muscle or joint problems. The weightlessness of the water helps them exercise pain-free.
Hiking uses a lot of up-and-down movement, so you get a major leg workout along with the heart and lung benefits. Not only that, but hiking provides a relaxing atmosphere for a workout that doesn't seem like a workout at all. Hiking is also a great sport to do along with a friend a family member.
Kayaking is primarily an upper-body sport, but it also works the muscles of the center of your body, back, and stomach. Beginners should start by taking a class in a pool or flat-water location to learn about controlling the craft and safety.
The website prevention.com also offers up a list of great outdoor sports and activity ideas along with the approximate amount of calories each can burn – based on a 150-lb. person.
Excuses. Excuses. For many people, it is easier to make up a reason for not getting exercise than simply being active. So, let's look at some of the more common excuses that we've all used before. And then talk about how to work around those excuses to start getting the exercise you need.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a list of common excuses and ways to get around them. Here is a list of excuses and solutions based on the CDC web article, which can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/getactive/barriers.html.
Excuse: "I don't have enough time to exercise." Solutions: The best thing to do is find time. Look at your schedule for one week and find at least three 30-minute time slots you could use for physical activity. You can also add physical activity to your daily routine. For example, walk or ride your bike to work or shopping, organize school projects around physical activity, walk the dog, exercise while you watch TV, or park farther away from where you are going. Doing things that don't take long, such as walking or jogging, can also help you fit in healthy activity.
Excuse: "I'm too tired." Solutions: Plan physical activities for times in the day or week when you have more energy. Once you get started on a regular fitness plan, your overall energy levels will go up and this excuse will go away.
Excuse: "I just don't want to. I'm not motivated." Solutions: Talk about exercise with friends and family. Ask them to support your efforts. Invite friends and family members to exercise with you. Plan social activities involving exercise. Develop new friendships with physically active people. Join a group, such as the YMCA or a hiking club. Invite a friend to exercise with you regularly and write it on both your calendars.
Excuse: "I'm afraid I'll get hurt." Solutions: Learn how to warm up and cool down to help lower your chances of getting hurt. Learn how to exercise in ways that are good for your age, fitness level, skill level, and health status. Pick exercises that have less risk for getting hurt.
Excuse: "I won't know what I'm doing." Solutions: Select activities that are based on skills you already have, such as walking, climbing stairs, or jogging. Or, take a class to learn how to do new activities.
Excuse: "I'm always traveling." Solutions: Put a jump rope in your suitcase and jump rope. Walk the halls and climb the stairs in hotels. Stay in places with swimming pools or gyms. Visit the local shopping mall and walk for half an hour or more. Bring your music player loaded with your favorite upbeat exercise music.
Excuse: "My children take up all my time." Solutions: Trade babysitting time with a friend, neighbor, or family member who also has small children. Exercise with the kids: go for a walk together, play tag or other running games, get a dance or exercise tape for kids and exercise together. You can spend time together and still get your exercise. Jump rope or use home exercise equipment while the kids are busy playing or sleeping. Try to exercise when the kids are not around, such as during school or while they are taking a nap.
Physical activity is important for people of all ages, from toddlers to senior citizens. But as people get older, they may find it harder to keep up a healthy schedule. The CDC also has tips for keeping your health on track as you age.
May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. According to Shellie Pfohl, Executive Director of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, "National Physical Fitness and Sports Month serves as a great opportunity to encourage physical activity and healthy eating habits, and to highlight our mission to engage, educate, and empower all Americans across the lifespan to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and proper nutrition. We want everyone to know that being physically active is not only important for one's health, but it is fun and easier than most people think."
A key part of this initiative is The President's Challenge. The President's Challenge is the long-standing program of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition administered through a co-sponsorship agreement with the Amateur Athletic Union. The President's Challenge helps people of all ages and abilities improve their fitness, physical activity, and nutrition habits through a suite of recognition programs to help Americans of all ages live healthier lives.
Depending on your age, you can take a variety of healthy tests and challenges through the program. One challenge, the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, offers recognition for those who complete an 8-week course of exercise and healthy eating.
On the official website, www.fitness.gov, you can find out much more about National Physical Fitness and Sports Month and The President's Challenge. You can also find lots of great fitness and healthy eating tips.
Whether you are young or old, staying active is important. So get outside, get moving, do something you enjoy. Sign up for The President's Challenge. Or simply work harder to eat better. When it comes to your health, every little bit helps.
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