Why exercise

Regular exercise promotes both physical and emotional wellbeing.  

By Telus Health

It is recommended that both aerobic and strength-training activities are included in a healthy lifestyle.

Aerobic activities speed up your heart rate and breathing. These activities include jogging, riding a bike, or participating in an aerobics class. These kinds of activities help build cardiovascular fitness. Walking at a vigorous pace is also a great way to get aerobic exercise.

Strength and flexibility activities build muscle and maintain healthy bones. These might include lifting weights; core-strengthening activities; or using one’s own body as resistance, as with pushups or lunges.

Additionally, activities such as stretching or yoga increase flexibility and can help you avoid injuries or soreness.

Benefits of regular exercise include:

  • building and maintaining healthy bones, muscles, and joints
  • increasing energy, strength and endurance
  • managing weight
  • sleeping better
  • controlling blood pressure
  • increasing confidence, self-esteem, and psychological wellbeing
  • relieving feelings of stress
  • reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • enhancing brain function, including memory and intelligence
  • promoting positive moods
  • improving balance
  • easing the pain of arthritis
  • lowering risk of stroke, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer

Research shows that as you get older, exercising regularly can reduce the risks of falling and fracturing bones, and can improve quality of life and the ability to live independently. “No one is too old to enjoy the benefits of regular physical activity,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.

How much is enough?

For health benefits, the CDC recommends that adults engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise on most days of the week (for a total of 150 minutes a week) and include muscle-strengthening activities on at least two days of the week. The CDC recommends that children 6 to 17 years old get 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

Fitting exercise into everyday life

It’s important to take a few precautions if you aren’t used to exercising regularly. Talk with your health care provider if you’re over 35 and haven’t exercised in a few years; if you have a chronic health condition, such as hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, or obesity; or if any condition limits your mobility. It’s also recommended that you talk with a doctor if you’re at a high risk for heart disease. Your health care provider may want to test your fitness level to see what’s safe for you.

You can learn more about how to exercise safely at any age by going to the “Physical Activity” pages of the website for the American Academy of Family Physicians. Also, the program that provided this publication can give you additional information on exercise and physical fitness.

Exercise can be part of your daily routine, like biking to work, gardening on a regular basis, or mowing with a push mower; or it can be more structured, like going for a run, going to the gym, or participating in a group sport. The key is to find activities that you enjoy.

The goal is to aim for moderate-intensity activities, where you break a sweat and raise your heart rate but can still have a conversation.  Activities that last for at least 10 minutes at a time count toward your total weekly activity time. This is great news for those with tight schedules.

Here are a few examples of ways to be active for at least 10 minutes at a time:

Take a brisk walk on your breaks at work or at the end of the day.

Exercise while you’re watching television or talking on the phone, using a hands-free headset if needed.

Park a few blocks from your destination and walk the rest of the way. If you take public transportation, get off a stop earlier or later than you need and walk the rest of the way.

Be creative. Go for a walk instead of meeting for coffee. Try to hula hoop or play another fun and active game with young children. Play tag, toss a ball, or play another game that gets you moving. Dance in your kitchen.  Walk around the parking lot a few times before, during, or after activities or events. Pace up and down the sidelines during children’s sporting events.

Walk or bike your errands. Before you get into the car, ask yourself if you could make it on foot. Use a backpack, wheeled cart, or a bag if you need to carry items. Fit your bike with a basket. Errands might include going to the library, drug store, post office, or bank.

Staying motivated

Sometimes people get bored and need a change from regular routines.  Or, the weather changes and it is not possible to be active in the same way.  Other times, schedules shift and impact usual activities. Here are some tips to overcoming common challenges.

Add variety. Walking the same route every day might lose its appeal. Changing the route, adding some speed walking, or switching it out with a bike ride or swim might make it more interesting.  Try a new class you haven’t taken before.

Find a group.  Taking a class at a Y, gym, or community center may make it easier to stick with your routine while adding opportunities to connect with others.

Join a fitness challenge. Sign up for a 5k run or employer-sponsored fitness program that will help to motivate you to get moving. Visit the Couch to 5k website to learn more or to download an app that will help you get started.

Make it social. Ride bikes with a child, go for a lunchtime walk with a co-worker, or take a line-dancing class with a friend. Look into local biking or walking groups, or join a team.

Pair activity with an established habit. Do a quick 10-minute strength-training workout when you brush your teeth.  Follow a guided stretching routine when getting ready for bed. Before long, those exercises will become habit.

Set daily or weekly goals. If you want to exercise four times a week, write that down and track your progress. If you didn’t accomplish all you wanted, figure out what you might need to change to reach your goal more consistently. If you did meet your goal, reward yourself with a massage, some new workout gear, or something else that will inspire you to continue exercising.

Track your active time. Use an electronic activity tracker, such as Fitbit, a traditional pedometer, or an app on your phone to count the number of steps you take. Some counters can count “active minutes” toward wellness.  While experts recommend aiming for 10,000 steps a day, determine your daily average step count and then gradually increase until you reach 10,000.

Plan ahead for exercise. It is easier to be active when you know how it fits into your schedule. Planning ahead, scheduling activities, and writing them down in a calendar make it much more likely you’ll be active.

Be accountable. Many people find it easier to stick with an exercise program when they have an exercise buddy. If you can’t exercise daily with a friend, arrange to call your friend each evening to report your exercise accomplishments. Make a chart of your daily activities and put it up in a prominent place. Use an app like HabitBull to check off your goals or an app like Habitica to turn your goals into a virtual reality.

It’s never too early or too late to start making exercise part of your everyday life.  It can take some planning to start a regular exercise routine, but the benefits are worth the effort. Try to gradually make your life more active. Start slowly, and then keep increasing the amount of physical activity you get each day.

Maintaining a fitness routine can be challenging with a full schedule and competing priorities. However, with a bit of creativity and flexibility, it is possible to incorporate regular activity into a busy lifestyle.