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Adding Physical Activity into Your Lifestyle

September 2013

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RD, FADA, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Staying healthy includes eating healthy foods and being physically active. Adults who are exercising daily and leading an active lifestyle are less likely to develop chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, type 2 Diabetes, or heart disease. The human body needs to move and use energy at all ages and abilities. Below are some tips to help you get active. Many involve small steps that, over time, can produce positive results.

  • Start adding activities to your daily routine slowly so injuries are prevented. After several weeks, increase how often and how long you are active.
  • Increase your heart rate by engaging in 2.5 hours each week of activities that require a moderate effort such as brisk walking, biking, swimming, and skating. Spread the activities over the week but make sure you do them at least for ten minutes at a time.
  • Engage in strength training for healthy muscles and bones at least twice a week. These activities build strength and include: lifting weights, doing push-ups and sit-ups, working with resistance bands, or heavy gardening.
  • Keep your days as active as possible as all physical activity adds up. Adding movement like taking the stairs instead of an escalator or a 10-minute walk on your lunch break can make a big difference for your overall health.
  • Personalize your activity so it is not boring. Try dancing, martial arts, gardening, playing tennis, or golf. Add a variety of activities that you enjoy.
  • Plan activities with family and friends. Join a walking or running group, attend fitness classes at your local YMCA or gym, or play with your kids or grandkids outside. Build a support network so that you engage in activities on a consistent basis.
  • Set goals and keep a record of your activities on a calendar. You can use the USDA SuperTracker to record your activities in a journal. Also, using the “SuperTracker”, you can keep a record of the foods you eat.
  • Add to your active time each week. Being physically active will decrease your risk for major diseases including heart disease, type 2 Diabetes, and certain cancers.
  • Increase the intensity of activities over time. You can go from walking to brisk walking or running. You can swim or bike faster and/or longer or engage in aerobic dance for longer periods of time.

Physical activity needs to be fun and enjoyable. Each of us has our own likes and dislikes and we need to recognize them and incorporate our likes into developing a healthy lifestyle. Remember, staying active is your life-line to a healthy aging process. Take small steps to add activities of all types to your daily routine. Each type of activity we engage in makes a difference for our health which is important as we continue to get older.