Whether you plan to exercise for general health benefits, to increase your physical fitness, or to maintain or lose weight—perhaps all three reasons are your motivation—it’s important to select types of exercise that you can continue to do consistently. The health, fitness and weight management advantages of exercise all depend on you being physically active regularly and for the long term. Here are 11 tips to start your way to a sustainable active lifestyle.
#1 Choose exercises that you enjoy.
One reason that people find their exercise program falls by the wayside is boredom. If going for a walk gives you pleasure, turn it into a daily health and fitness opportunity. If attending a gym for your strength training exercises is a real turn-off, then get yourself a set of hand-weights and go through your routine in your backyard or even at the beach! Try out new activities to keep yourself interested and motivated.
#2 Pick more than one type.
Exercising the same way every day not only becomes monotonous, but it increases the risk of injury and will restrict the benefits you obtain from exercise. So your regular weekly exercise routine should include both aerobic exercise—such as walking, jogging, cycling, aerobics, or a sport that involves running—for cardiovascular health, plus gym-type sessions for muscular and bone health. Alternative exercises will add variety, and working different muscles on different days helps reduce the risk of injury.
#3 Vary the intensity.
Highly trained athletes often train according to the “hardeasy” principle whereby one day of intense exercise is followed by a day of low intensity exercise, and so on. This principle can also apply if you have a lower level of fitness: It’ll help avoid injury and will allow your muscles time to recover from hard work. By aiming for an exercise program that addresses all aspects of physical fitness—muscular strength, aerobic fitness, flexibility and endurance—you will need to select a range of exercise options anyway, such as hand-weights training for strength, walking, jogging or cycling for aerobic fitness and endurance, and yoga or stretching exercises for flexibility.
#4 Opt for readily available exercise options.
Choosing types of exercise that need minimal equipment, no specific venue, minimal or no ongoing costs, and no other team members makes them easy to do spontaneously—often simply by stepping out your front door—as and when some spare time arises. Brisk walking is a good example.
#5 Join a class or social sports team.
Some people like the discipline of attending a regular class or course, or joining a social sports team, and find that this helps them to exercise regularly. They also tend to try harder than they would on their own. Community centers and adult education colleges often offer classes in activities such as dance, yoga or Pilates, as well as classes for the older exerciser. Personal trainers will offer a variety of group and individual sessions that can be matched to your needs. You can also search the Internet for local sports clubs or outdoor activity groups—most offer instruction in activities and are happy to have new members. Check your local newspaper for local fun runs—most have a category for walkers too. Whatever you’re interested in, there should be something out there for you.