I’m a child of the ’80s, so when I hear the word “exercise,” I visualize a group of men and women in leotards and leg warmers doing aerobics to Olivia Newton-John’s pop music. Needless to say, I much prefer the term “physical activity” to “exercise,” but there’s no denying those spandex-clad, big-haired enthusiasts were on to something. Regular physical activity is important for good health, and it’s especially important if you’re trying to lose or maintain a healthy weight.
New Year’s resolutions about your health — especially those aimed at diet and weight loss — are among the most common vows made on Jan. 1. This is good news, considering that locally 64 percent of adults here are obese or overweight, and less than half of adults reach the recommended levels of physical activity for maximum health. Unfortunately, data from Spokane Counts 2011 (srhd.org/spokane-counts) also suggests that our physical activity levels decrease as our age increases.
Getting physically active requires that it be a priority, which is exactly what a resolution signifies. Making the resolution happen is another story. For best success, make your resolutions specific and manageable.
Here are some tips to help get you started:
Incorporate physical activity into daily living. When possible, walk to destinations or take the bus. Every bus trip starts and ends with a walking trip.
Find an activity buddy. Physical activity can also be social, and a buddy can hold you accountable.
Do things that you enjoy. If you hate running, don’t run. Try new activities: rock climbing, snowshoeing, swimming or yoga.
Make it a family affair. Take walks after dinner, or invent new outdoor games that get your family moving.
Find the time. Put 30-60 minutes of physical activity into your daily calendar.
Try strength training in addition to your physical activity. Muscles burn more calories than fat, and they look better too.
When it comes to weight management, people vary greatly in how much activity they need. Here are some general guidelines to follow:
To maintain your current weight: Work your way up to 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity weekly — or an equivalent mix of the two each week.
To lose weight and keep it off: To lose weight, you will need 300-plus minutes of physical activity weekly, unless you also adjust your diet and reduce the amount of calories you’re eating and drinking. Staying at your ideal weight requires both regular physical activity and a healthy eating plan.
The excuses we have for not getting enough physical activity are many: not enough time, too much to do, fear of injury, can’t afford it — and the list goes on. One of these days maybe I’ll meet someone who excused their way to fitness success. I doubt it.
One other hint, check out stepupspokane.org for local help setting goals and figuring out ways to start something new.