ON THE MOVENew directions in fitness
A Fresh Approach to a Fit Life
Life has changed. Cars, computers and high-tech comforts mean fewer chances for movement as part of our daily lives. And we're busier too. So we find less time for regular activity. Thank goodness research now shows it's OK to use short bits of activity to be healthier and more energetic. If you're already doing more organised, intense exercise, though, stay with it! That can make you even stronger and more fit.Every Little Bit Counts
Do you still think you have to exercise hard for 30 minutes every day to be healthier? You don't. And you don't have to change your clothes, go somewhere special, or get sweaty if you don't want to.
You simply need to let your heart pick up a few beats, your breath move a little faster and your legs take a few extra steps. This can be planned into your normal day. You can even do this when you're at work, shopping, doing chores or having weekend fun.
An active lifestyle also means taking every chance you get to stretch or strengthen your muscles.What's Holding You Back?
If you're like most people, lack of time is the biggest problem. But that's the beauty of this fresh approach: You just use the time you have in a new way.
What are other roadblocks to fitness? No babysitter, bad weather or inactive family members are a few. Write down your biggest barriers, then use the following ideas to help you over your roadblocks: Take the kids with you.
Add variety. If you can't do one activity, choose another that day.
Announce your goals to your family and friends. Why Get Fit?
It might help to think about why you want to get fit. That can get you started and keep you going. Check what's important to you:
Energy to play with the kids or grandkids
Less chance of heart disease or other illness
More energy for a favourite hobby
Feeling more attractive
Feeling less stressed
Any others?Something for Everyone
These new directions in fitness mean everyone can find activities to fit his or her needs. You can start with one of the following three levels. Level 1 gets you going. Level 2 is a goal to work toward. Level 3 means even better fitness. Mix and match levels to fit your schedule.
1. Healthy Habit. Change the way you think about doing things. Find many short movement breaks of 1 to 2 minutes throughout the day. Then do something active instead of just sitting, driving or letting someone else do it for you.
2. Lifestyle Movement. Try to lengthen your short activity breaks to 8 to 10 minutes each. They should feel like a brisk walk, or as if you have a bus to catch. Your goal now is a total of 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days.
3. Planned Exercise. This is scheduled exercise and recreational sports, such as cycling, swimming or basketball. Aim for 30 or more minutes of non-stop moderate to vigorous activity.What You'll Learn
Read on and you'll learn more about:
Reaping healthy rewards
Fitting activity into your life
Finding ways to be active
Defining what fitness really is
Sticking with itReaping Healthy Rewards
The smallest first steps can bring big gains in health and fitness. Move a little more than you usually do, and you'll feel better physically and mentally. You'll tire less quickly. And you'll have more energy to enjoy friends, family and hobbies. Plus, you'll be healthier.A Stronger and Happier You
Even before you see the difference, you'll feel the difference. Here are three ways you'll benefit from more activity:
Physical Fitness. You'll have more stamina. You'll also enjoy recreation more. And you'll keep your strength and independence as you age.
Mental Fitness. You'll manage stress better, be less tense, think more clearly and maybe even sleep better.
Long-Term Health. Your risk of some diseases may go down. This includes heart disease, osteoporosis (thinning bones), some cancers, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Note: Do you have any physical limitations or chronic conditions? If so, check with your doctor or other health professional to find out what is safe for you. Just remember, everybody can find a way to get and stay more active. And everyone benefits, too.Short Activity Breaks Can Add Up
For years, scientists thought people had to do longer, more intense daily exercise to be healthy. Intense activity is still great for high levels of fitness. But recent studies show there's more than one way to stay healthy.
Several short activity breaks during the day can add up to feeling better. You don't have to fit your life around exercise. Instead, you can fit exercise into your daily life. And you can still reap benefits if you keep a brisk pace.Check Your Health First
If you answer "yes" to any of the questions below, you should talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise programme:
Has a doctor ever said you have heart trouble?
Do you suffer often from chest pains?
Do you often feel faint or have dizzy spells?
Has a doctor ever said your blood pressure is too high?
Has a doctor ever said that you have a bone or joint problem, such as arthritis, that could be made worse by exercise?
Do you take any prescription medicines, such as for heart problems or high blood pressure?
If you are over age 50 and not used to exercise, you should start slowly. See a doctor before continuing exercise if any answers change to a "yes."Will I Lose Weight?
Many of us would like to lose or keep off a few kilograms. Being more active each day can help you do that. Here's why:
You'll use more muscle, and muscle burns more calories. You burn nearly twice as many calories just walking slowly as you do sitting.
You'll keep from losing muscles as you age. More muscle means it'll be easier to keep your weight down.
You might even add more muscle. That'll help you use more calories even when you're just sitting.1. A Healthy Habit
This is the first level. A healthier life starts with a few smaller steps that become habits. Activity is one of those steps. We need to change how we think about the way we do everyday things. For example, choose stairs (be active) instead of the lift (not active). That way, movement becomes a natural part of your daily life. You don't have to go anywhere or buy anything special.How to Get Started
Take a minute to look at your day. From start to finish, there are tiny bits to of time that could add up to a gold mine of activity. You just have to find them, then plan the movement. It may be while your waiting for water to boil or for a computer to start. All you need is a total of 30 minutes of movement on most days to find better health and help you to the next level.
If that sounds like a lot, then imagine it as a collection of 1 or 2 minute movement breaks. Suddenly, that's something anyone can do!
And you can do whatever suits your taste. Your choices will always be ones that work best for you.Act Like a Kid
What young child ever wants to sit still? Kids never plan activity. They just move. Here are some ideas to help you act more like a kid:
Be a participant, not an observer. Forget the sidelines. Jump in for a game of ping pong or to shoot a few goals.
Dress to move. Comfortable shoes and clothing help you want to move more. Stand more at meetings. Or walk to the farthest water fountain on a break.
Seek active fun. Kids don't sit and chat over soda. They jump and run. So instead of sitting over coffee to visit with a friend, stroll through a park or mall.Just Move
Now you get the idea: Think active. Think like a kid. Build bits of movement into what you already do. Lets look at some examples of ways you can start:
Instead of: sitting in the bleachers at your child's soccer game or in the doctors waiting room,
Try to: do a lap around the field or take a quick walk up and down the stairs.
Instead of: choosing electric or power tools and appliances,
Try to: whip, mix, mow or hammer by hand.
Instead of: sending an e-mail or voicemail at work,
Try to: walk to your co-worker to talk in person
Instead of: just sitting while watching TV or driving a car,
Try to: tighten your stomach muscles for a minute, or stretch your shoulders or neck.
Instead of: taking a lift or escalator at the mall,
Try to: walk up the escalator or find stairs to use.
Tips for sticking with it:
Get your family to join you
Promise yourself rewards
Set daily or weekly goals
Track your progress2. Lifestyle Movement
In this second level, you try to make each activity break longer and more brisk. The total time you move each day will still be 30 minutes. But longer activity breaks can mean even greater health benefits. That's what the US Surgeon General's report on physical activity and health says. Combine these longer breaks with the Level 1 activity for even greater health benefits. And you still don't have to go anywhere special because the activity is part of your lifestyle.What "More" Means
A total of 30 minutes on most days - that's still your goal. It becomes "more" because of the way you reach that total:
Find 8 to 10 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day, to move briskly.
Each time you're active, feel your breathing and your pulse get a little faster. Think "brisk", or as if you're in a hurry to catch a bus. But don't go so fast that you're too out of breath to talk.
Look for chances to stretch or strengthen your legs, back, abdomen and arms too.Whenever You Can
Be ready to use a few extra minutes when they come up:
At work: Pick a lunch spot a few blocks away and stride there and back. Use your break for a brisk walk.
At home: Ride bikes with your kids. Use an exercise bike in the living room while you watch TV.
On errands: Park a few blocks away from where you need to go and walk there briskly. "Power walk" in malls by doing a fast lap or two before shopping.
At play: Go hiking with friends instead of sitting on a bench. Stride through street fairs instead of sitting in a movie.Use Your Whole Body
You now have your heart and lungs working for 10 minute breaks a few times a day. Try adding a few exercises for the other muscles in your body, too. That way, they get stronger and more flexible.Strengthen your:
Chest: Do mini-push ups against a wall while on the telephone.
Lower legs: Go up and down slowly on your toes while you're filing papers or washing dishes.
Upper legs: Lower yourself slowly into a chair.Stretch your
Back: Arch your back like a cat when you get up from a chair.
Shoulders and chest: Lift your arms overhead and reach tall while waiting for your computer to warm up.
Lower legs: Raise your toes and press them against a wall (with your heel on the ground). Or lean forward while waiting in line.Tips for Sticking with It
Plan your activity by writing it on a calendar
Find a buddy at work to walk with during a lunch break
Take your kids with you on a short walk after dinner
Post a reminder list of the benefits of activity where you can see it
Set an alarm to tell you when its time for an activity break3. Planned Exercise
Maybe you want to get even more health and fitness benefits. Or you want to lose more weight. Perhaps you must prefer organised recreation. This third level could be for you. This step means more structure and a little more intensity. You'll probably need to go somewhere special, change into different clothes and set aside time. If you want to mix and match levels, you could do planned exercise once or twice each week (level 3). Learn a new sport, join a recreational team or go to an exercise class. Then you can do lifestyle movement (level 2) for the rest of the week. Its your choice.Add to Your Activity
Planned exercise can mean many things, but it usually means increasing the intensity. How do you do that? By doing your exercise one or more of these ways:
Longer: Do 30 minutes or more without a break instead of 10 minutes several times a day.
Faster: Hike, run or skate fast enough to raise your heart rate moderately - as if you had walked fast to catch a bus.
More often: Take part in your activity 4 to 6 times a week instead of 1 to 3 times.Not Just Gym Class
In the past, researchers said you needed to do set amounts of formal exercise at a certain pace to achieve health and fitness results. That's still fine, but its not the only way to get results.
You can reach your health and fitness goals with:
Team sports, like basketball or soccer
Social or recreational activities, like hiking or dancing
Individual exercise, like cycling, swimming or skating
Organised workouts, like aerobics classes or weight trainingStarting Again
Perhaps you used to exercise regularly but haven't for weeks, months or years. Maybe you just got busy or out of the habit.
Missing some time doesn't mean you failed. Or that you should give up. It does mean your first steps back should be small. You need to work back slowly to your earlier level. Let your body get used to the activity again. You won't get hurt, and you'll enjoy yourself more.
It helps to plan for times that might force you to miss your exercise, such as a summer vacation or busy holiday. Look ahead and write down when and what you can do, even if its less or different. For example, take good walking shoes on a vacation and tour by foot.Safety First
Whatever your activity, think about safety needs:
Wear good, supportive shoes made for you activity.
Wear light coloured clothing if you're out when its dark.
Carry ID with you if you're out alone. And be sure someone knows where you're going.
If you're on foot, travel against traffic (except on blind corners). If you're on a bike, go with traffic, obeying automobile signals and traffic flow.Tips for Sticking with It
Find a workout partner or sport club. If you know someone is expecting you, you'll be less likely to skip your workout.
Pack a workout bag with everything you need. Then it's ready when you are.
Choose a variety of activities so you'll stay interested. Make it fun!Measure Your Pace
Many people know when they're exercising at a good pace for them. Its a pace that's not too hard or too easy. But there are ways to measure your exercise intensity. If you're starting with Level 1 activity, measuring your pace isn't needed. If you want to reach Level 2, knowing what "brisk" feel like can help (remember, it's like the effort of hurrying to catch a bus). Level 3 exercisers will pay more attention to pace.Why Pace Matters
Letting your heart work at the right pace means you'll develop better aerobic endurance. This happens because your heart gets stronger and healthier from the challenge. A stronger heart can pump more oxygen to your muscles. Then you don't tire as quickly during your hobbies, sports or daily activities.How Does it Feel?
Listening to your body is the best way to decide if an exercise pace is right for you. If you do too much, you'll tire too quickly or get hurt. If you do too little, you won't get the health rewards you want.
Note: during or after exercise, you should not feel sick, dizzy or very tired. After you're done, you should feel normal in about 10 minutes. If you are very tired or sore the next day, you may have exercised too hard.The Effort Scale
You can use the Effort Scale to help you. The scale is labelled from 0 to 10. A "0" effort means you're doing nothing or lying still. A "10" effort would be all you can do or total exhaustion. Healthy, brisk workouts - the ones that feel as if your hurrying to catch a bus - should feel in between (or a "2" to "5" in effort). That's not just how your leg muscles feel. Its an overall feeling in your whole body.
Starting at level 2, you should feel as if:
You're breathing faster
You can talk in short sentences, but can't sing
The exercise is comfortably hard
Another way to measure your pace is by calculating percentages of your heart rate. If you want more information about this method, contact your health care professional.Balancing Your Fitness
Until now, we've talked mostly about aerobic activity where you're heart beats more quickly and you're breathing faster. There are two other parts of a programme to get your body on the move to total fitness and health. These are flexibility and strength. Both are important for balanced fitness. Planned exercise sessions should also include warm up and cool down periods.Warming Up and Cooling Down
Good warm ups and cool downs can keep you from getting hurt when you do more intense aerobic activities that are 30 minutes or longer. You don't need to warm up or cool down with short level 1 or 2 activity.
Warm up by starting your activity slowly, or walking or jogging slowly for about 5 minutes. That gets your muscles warm and soft so they move easily. It also helps your joints move more easily. After your warm up, stop to stretch a little before you start your activity.
A cool down is like a warm up in reverse. Gradually slow down your activity, or walk or jog slowly. After about 5 minutes, you can stop moving. Slowing to a stop lets your body return to its normal state little by little. Now is the best time to stretch since your muscles are very warm. Stretch and Strengthen
Flexible and strong muscles are important for overall fitness. Stretching and getting stronger can also keep you from getting hurt. Staying injury free will help you stick to your goals.
Remember, if you make your muscles work harder than they usually do, a little soreness is normal, but if your muscles hurt after you're done, or for several days, you probably did too much.
Try stretching exercises. Remember to do your longest stretching after you cool down, when your muscles are still warm. A short stretch after you warm up is just to loosen up a little. Light stretching is possible anytime.
Try strength exercise. Doing strength exercises for your muscles can keep your bones stronger. Making your muscles strong also helps you enjoy your favourite hobbies, play with the kids or stay independent as you age.Stretching
Light stretching to relax can be done anytime. If you want to stretch for better flexibility, be sure your muscles are warmed up first. Hold each position for 20 to 30 seconds. You will feel a gentle pull, but it should not hurt. Hold each stretch steady without bouncing. Breathe normally and deeply when you hold. Repeat the exercise 1 to 3 times one each side.Standing Hamstring
This stretches the back of the upper leg.
Stand with one heel on a low step in front of you.
Slightly bend the back leg. Keep the other leg straight but not locked.
Put your hands on the thigh above the bent knee to support your back. You can also put one hand on a rail for balance.
Push your hips back as if you were sitting down.
Keep your back straight and your neck relaxed.Knee-to-Chest
This stretches the low back and hips.
Lie on the floor.
Lift one knee to your chest.
Place your hands behind the lifted knee and pull it toward you.
Keep the opposite leg straight and on the floor.Calf Lunge
This stretches the back of the lower leg.
Stand facing a wall, about a foot away.
Place both hands on the wall for balance. Put one foot behind you.
Slightly bend the front knee. Keep the front heel down.
Keep the back leg straight and the back heel down.
Press your hips toward the wall.Overhead Reach
This stretches the chest and shoulders.
Stand or sit tall.
Clasp your hands together over your head.
Reach toward the ceiling with both hands.
Pull your elbows slightly behind your ears.
Keep your shoulders down.Strengthening
These strengthening exercises can be done without a warm up. Keep breathing while doing the exercises. Try to relax muscles you aren't using. Repeat each exercise 8 to 10 times, rest, then do it again. If that is too difficult, do fewer and build slowly. As you get stronger, do more.Knee Push-Ups
This strengthens the shoulders, chest and back.
Lie face down on the floor with your knees on the ground.
Place your hands flat on the ground under your shoulders.
Push your body up onto your hands and knees.
Keep your back straight and your stomach tight. Avoid dropping your head.
Hold for one count, then lower in two counts.Curl Ups
This strengthens the stomach muscles.
Lie face up on the ground with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
Place your hands on your upper legs.
Reach your fingertips toward your knees by tightening your stomach muscles. Only your head and shoulders will come off the ground. Look at your knees.
Hold for two counts, then lower.Toe Raises
This strengthens the calves.
Stand with the balls of your feet on the edge of a step. Hold on to a rail for support if you want.
Hang your heels below the edge.
Rise up on your toes as high as you can.
Hold for one count, then lower in two counts.Wall Sit
This strengthens the thighs and upper legs.
Stand with your back against a wall. Keep your heels about 45 cm from the wall.
Slide down into a sitting position. Stop just before your thighs are parallel to the floor.
Hold for 6 to 10 counts. Return to standing. Repeat 8 to 10 times.Shifting into a New Lifestyle
Its time to get started on the road to a healthier and more fit lifestyle. Pick what's right for you. Find something fun. Listen to your body. And use the tips throughout this article to help you stick with it.On your mark ...
If you want more information about fitness or your special needs, contact your local health care provider, physical fitness specialist or gym or club.Get set ...
Take a few moments to plan your new lifestyle. Be sure to get the support of your friends and family. Think of rewards - such as a movie or a new magazine subscription - that you can give yourself for being successful.Go!
Take it one step at a time. You'll be on the way to discovering a stronger, happier, healthier you!