Follow these great exercise tips to help achieve long term physical activity success.
Make it social
Walk with a friend, your spouse, or your family in the morning or evening.
Hunt for the farthest parking space
If you drive to work or to run errands, purposefully park your car a little farther from your office or the store. It may not seem like much, but over weeks and months, these minutes of exercise add up.
Turn off the TV, computer, and smart phone
Cutting back on screen time is a great way to curb your “sit time.” Trade screen time for active time – visit the gym or even just straighten up around the house.
Take lunch on the move
Don’t spend all of your lunch time sitting. Hit the gym or go for a 20-minute walk with coworkers, and then have a meal when you are done.
Piece your workout together
You don’t need to get all your exercise at one time. Ten minutes morning, noon, and night can give much of the same benefit as 30 minutes all at once.
Choose activities you like
A lot of different things count as exercise: dancing, walking, gardening, yoga, cycling, playing basketball. To make it easier to get moving, choose whatever gets you moving. Also, choose an activity that fits your self-identity. Do you see yourself wearing attractive clothes and bicycling comfortably to work, or wearing workout gear at the gym?
Set Realistic Goals
“Don’t strive for perfection or an improbable goal that can’t be met,” says Kara Thompson, spokesperson for the International Health Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). “Focus instead on increasing healthy behaviors.”
In other words, don’t worry if you can’t run a 5K just yet. Make it a habit to walk 15 minutes a day, and add time, distance, and intensity from there.
Exercising in the Summer Heat
Drink 8-12 oz. of water 20-30 minutes prior to exercise plus 8 oz. every 15 minutes of exercise to help prevent dehydration. If your exercise sessions exceed an hour, your fluid and electrolyte loss will be more extensive, so a sports drink will be best. Exercise during the cooler parts of the day (mornings, late afternoons). Decrease exercise intensity and duration when temperatures are high. It would always be best to take your exercise indoors. Allow your body to adapt to heat gradually through daily exposures. Wear minimal amounts of clothing to keep cool. You should wear lightweight, loose, light-colored clothing made of breathable material.
Replace Your Running Shoes!!!
Running shoes should be replaced every 300-400 miles. Shoes become less absorbent and lose stability over time, which can increase injury risk. When buying your next pair of shoes, be sure to get fitted for shoes that are tailored to your foot and running/walking stride. Go to your local running shoe store to get fitted. Depending on if you are a heel striker or fore foot striker, over pronator or under pronator, you may need a certain type of shoe to help avoid injury and increase your running/walking efficiency.
Turn Sit Time into Fit Time!
Fitting exercise into your daily schedule is typically a problem with most busy adults today. When you get busy, try to combine your cardiovascular exercise with a sedentary activity that you already do. Get on a cardio machine (treadmill, stationary bike, elliptical) while watching TV, reading, or returning phone calls. While watching TV, you could do some aerobic activity during each commercial break, such as jumping jacks. If you are constantly at your desk, or on a computer, try to do some brief exercise every 20-60 minutes, such as resistance band or aerobic exercises. No only will this give you a short break, but you will feel better and more alert throughout the day.
Increase Your Core Strength
Core exercises are an important part of any fitness program. Aside from occasional sit-ups, core exercises are often neglected. Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen. This leads to better balance, stability, and posture. Any exercise that involves the use of your abdominal and back muscles in coordinated fashion counts as a core exercise. Increasing core strength can also reduce low back pain. As your abdominals become stronger, your back will be more supported and stabilized. If you are looking for those 6-pack abs, core exercises are important, but it takes cardio to burn abdominal fat that lies on top of your abdominal muscles. You can do as many core exercises as you want, but you will never see your abdominal muscles if you don’t follow a healthy diet and perform cardio regularly. Strong core muscles make it easier to do everything from swinging a golf club to grabbing a plate from the top shelf. Weak core muscles leave you susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries. Be sure to include core exercises in your routine such as planks, side bridge, exercise ball crunches, etc.
Split-up Your Cardio Routine!
Cardio workouts can often get boring and feel like they take forever. A great way to make cardio more fun, and make the time fly by is by mixing up your cardio between different machines. Decide on your total exercise time, you want try to aim for at least 30 minutes of cardio. Pick 2 or more cardio machines at the gym (treadmill, elliptical, stair master, rower, stationary bike, etc.). Split up your total cardio time equally among all machines. So if you choose 3 and work out for 30 minutes, you spend 10 minutes on each. You could also split your time among machines unequally, such as 15 minutes on the elliptical, 10 minutes on the rower and 5 minutes on the treadmill. As soon as you finish the times at each machine, get to the next machine and get started quickly. Alternating between moderate, and high intensity on each machine will offer the best results. So next time you’re in the gym, give this a try to make your cardio more fun.
Keep it Brisk!
When you walk, walk at a brisk pace. Keeping it brisk will keep you challenged and allow you to lose more weight than walking at a leisurely pace. Walk as though you are late to a work or a meeting. You can also time your steps. A pace of 120 to 135 steps per minute corresponds to a walking pace of 3 to 4 miles per hour, a good goal for many people. If you are not quite at that pace yet, trying picking up the pace for short bursts during your usual walk. You will gradually build up to a faster walking pace.
Try using a Pedometer!
Pedometers are step counters that track how many steps you walk each day. Pedometers are cheap and easy to use. Best of all, they help you keep track of how active you are, and can motivate you to be more active. Stanford University researchers conducted a review of 26 studies looking at the use of pedometers as motivation for physical activity. The review found that people who used a pedometer increased their activity by 27%. People who used pedometers also lost more weight, had a greater drop in blood pressure, and walked about 2,500 steps more per day than those who didn’t use a pedometer. It is important to set a daily steps goal for yourself. A great goal would be 10,000 steps per day.
Exercise with a Friend!
Finding a workout partner can make exercise more fun, keep you motivated, and you to keep you accountable. This can be a work friend, your spouse, your boyfriend/girlfriend, your son/daughter, or a group of friends. Research show that those who exercise with an exercise partner are more likely to stick with their exercise program and reach their fitness goals than those who exercise alone. Having an exercise partner also means that you can challenge yourself more because you will have someone to spot you, and to push you through your workout. Once you get a workout partner, you should both come up with a definitive workout schedule and make a commitment to each other to meet that schedule. If you are having problems staying consistent with your exercise, give this a try.
Exercise for MORE energy!
A common excuse for not exercising is being too tired to exercise and thinking that exercising will only increase your fatigue. Instead of laying on the couch, exercise is exactly what you need to do. Exercising doesn’t make you tired, it actually causes your body to create more energy. The body adapts to the increased energy demands of exercise, making more energy available to the body. For example, doing aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, cycling), causes an increase in the number of mitochondria (energy producing organelles) in the body. This is why regular cardiovascular exercise actually increase your bodies available energy. Endorphins (feel good hormones) are also released into your bloodstream during exercise, making you feel more energized throughout the day. Increases in your strength and stamina will make it easier for you to accomplish everyday tasks, with less fatigue. You will be surprised at how much extra energy you have when exercising consistently.
Choose Activities You Enjoy!
It is going to be difficult to get your recommended daily exercise if you don’t enjoy the types of exercise you are doing. There are numerous activities that qualify as exercise. Pairing exercise with another activity can make it easier and more fun. Examples include dancing to your favorite music with your kids, walking with your dog, taking exercise classes with a friend, basketball with your kids or buddies, using a treadmill or stationary bike while watching a movie, etc. Choosing exercises you enjoy will make it easier to get you moving, and you will be more likely to stay consistent with your exercise routine.
Monitor your Heart Rate!
Your heart rate is lower when you are at rest and increases when you exercise. This is because more oxygen-rich blood is needed by the muscles during exercise. People often don’t exercise at a high enough intensity, or continue the same intensity for several months, and wonder why they are no longer seeing results. Monitoring your heart rate during your workout is a great way to determine if you are exercising at the correct intensity. This can be done by hand, or by using a heart rate monitor. You gain the most benefits and lessen the risks when you exercise in your target heart rate zone. The target heart rate zone is typically 60-80% of your maximum heart rate (220-age). As you get into better shape, you will notice that it is more difficult to get your heart rate up. This is when you need to increase your exercise intensity so that you will continue to see results. You should always be challenged during your exercise.
No Time? Split up your Workout!
Not having enough time to exercise is one of the main reasons that people don’t exercise. Finding time to fit in the recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day can be difficult for those with busy schedules. The good news is that you don’t have to do all of your exercise in one sitting, you can split it up. Research shows that those who split up their 30 minute exercise session into 10 minute or 15 minute increments spread throughout the day obtained the same health benefits as those who did all 30 minutes of exercise at once.
Components of an Exercise Session
There are 4 components to a successful exercise session. Too often people skip some of these components, and typically they are not able to get the most out of their workouts, are always sore, and sometimes end up with an injury. Everyone should learn to follow each of these components during their exercise sessions. You not only will get more out of your workout, but will also see better results safely.
- Warm-up: At least 5-10 min of light to moderate intensity aerobic activity.
- Conditioning: At least 20-60 min of aerobic, resistance, and/or neuromotor exercise (exercise bouts can be split up into 10min increments throughout the day).
- Cool-down: At least 5-10 min of light to moderate intensity aerobic activity
- Stretching: At least 5-10 min of stretching exercises performed after the warm-up and/or cool-down.
Consistency is Key!
Consistency is a huge factor in achieving your health and fitness goals. Don’t think about exercise as something you do if you have time. Exercise needs to be a part of your daily schedule. Exercising each day will always achieve better results than doing long intense workouts periodically. A consistent exercise program that gradually increases in intensity will allow the body to optimally increase strength, flexibility, and endurance at a steady rate, while turning your body into a fat burning machine. Tips to help you stay consistent include; exercising at the same time each day, planning your workouts ahead of time, choosing exercises that you enjoy, getting a workout partner, and adding variety to your exercise program.
Tips for Joining a Gym
Joining a gym can often be intimidating. If you plan to join a gym, you should think about the following before doing so: your needs, budget, location, gym hours, membership length, membership cost, cancellation policy, staff and trainers, and extras available. Not all gyms will have the equipment you need. If you are just starting out, you will most likely be starting on machine weights, and cardio machines, so you will want to make sure the gym has this equipment available. Finding time is often a big issue when it comes to exercising, so you want to check the daily hours of the gym you are wanting to join, some are open 24 hours a day. Membership options will vary for each gym, some gyms require a long term agreement, while others are month to month. Membership prices will also vary, and more expensive memberships typically have more to offer. Many gyms will often try to be tricky with their cancelation policies, some memberships may automatically renew if you don’t give notice that you are planning to cancel. Be sure to look at the extra benefits that gyms offer such as; free exercise classes, a pool, daycare, locker rooms with showers, free fitness assessments, free personal training sessions when joining, etc. Finally, try joining a gym that is either near where you live, or where you work. If you are unsure about a gym, you can always pay a daily fee to try out a gym before starting a membership.
Relieve Your Stress With Exercise!
When people get stressed, they often turn to food, cigarettes, alcohol, or other unhealthy stress relievers. Instead people should turn to exercise. Just about any type of exercise can act as a stress reliever. Exercise increases your overall health, and sense of well-being. Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, which are neurotransmitters that make you feel good. It’s always a good feeling when you finish a tough workout. Exercise can also improve your mood by increasing self-confidence, and lowering depression and anxiety. You don’t have to be in great shape to get the stress relief benefits, even a little exercise can go a long way toward stress relief. Finally, exercising can take your mind off all of those daily stressors. When you exercise, you will notice that you tend to forget all your problems and worries and focus only on the task at hand, your exercise. It is a great idea to get in the habit of exercising daily, not only for overall health, but also these stress reliving benefits.
Warm-up and Cool-down
Each workout should begin with a warm-up and end with a cool-down. These not only aid in injury prevention, but also allow the body to smoothly transition from a normal state to activity, and back to a normal state. A warm-up prepares the body for exercise by increasing heart rate and blood flow to your muscles. The warm-up should consist of a low-intensity cardiovascular exercise such as walking, biking, or jogging. After 5-10 minutes, the warm-up should focus on muscles and movements more specific to the exercise activity planned. Stretching is also an important part of the warm-up. As the muscle become more warm and elastic, they are ready to be stretched. Stretching prepares the muscles, tendons and joints for activity by allowing them to move freely through a full range of motion. Just as the warm-up prepares the body for activity, the cool down brings it back to a normal state. Performing 5-10 minutes of low-intensity cardio followed by stretching immediately after the workout will decrease muscle soreness, prevent blood pooling, and aid in recovery.
Use Correct Form Over Heavier Weight!
Using correct form when lifting weights is vital in decreasing injury risk, and achieving results. Two of the main reasons that people lift weights with incorrect form are that they’re using too much weight, or they were never taught correct form. Although lifting with heavy weight may boost your ego, if you cannot lift the weight with correct form, you’re not stimulating the muscles correctly, and you’re increasing injury risk by placing excess stress on joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments. While you may not be hurting at first, chronic poor lifting technique can result in serious injuries later in life. If you are unsure if you are using correct form or want some instruction before beginning weight lifting, seek guidance from a physical therapist or fitness professional.
Set Goals for Yourself!
An important component of successful physical activity intervention and behavior change is goal setting. Setting goals promotes increased activity, motivation, effort, and consistency. Setting both short-term goals, to initiate change, and long-term goals is best. A lot of times people set unrealistic goals for themselves, and when they do not reach these goals, they become discouraged and may give up. Make sure your goals are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-oriented).
An example of a SMART goal would be:
- Specific: Lose 20 pounds.
- Measurable: Using a scale, weigh yourself now and again on the date set to achieve the goal.
- Attainable: Consider whether it is realistic for you to lose 20 pounds. Are you committed? Are you already at a healthy weight? Do you have a plan?
- Relevant: Will losing the 20 pounds be beneficial to your life?
- Time-Oriented: Determine an actual date when you should achieve the weight loss. Don’t choose an unrealistic time period. A healthy rate of weight loss is about 1-2 lbs per week.
Live a more active lifestyle!
It is very important to make lifestyle changes to increase your activity outside of the gym. This is especially important for those who are always short on time, or don’t have as much time to exercise. These changes will increase your metabolic health, and burn extra calories. Active lifestyle changes can be easily implemented by anyone, and should be practiced daily. Look at your daily routine and determine if there are any modifications that can be made to help you be more active. Some examples of active lifestyle changes include:
- Take walk breaks at work instead of coffee breaks. Ask a friend to walk with you.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Park in the furthest parking spot, instead of the closest.
- Take on active hobbies such as, gardening, yard work, house work, walking the dog, biking, hiking,etc.
- Bike to work, school, or the store, instead of driving.
- If you are watching TV, do jumping jacks or push-ups during the commercial breaks.
Change it Up!
Change it up! Beginners often make the mistake of doing the same exercise routine for an extended period of time. These people may notice they are losing weight quickly and seeing results at first, but many eventually hit a plateau. They also tend to become bored and feel less motivated. When doing the same routine for an extended period of time, your body begins to adapt and become more efficient. This means that you will be burning fewer calories. Changing up your exercise program will keep your body continually challenged so you will burn more calories, and continue to lose weight. Doing this will also keep you motivated, and prevent boredom. Changes should be made every 2-4 weeks. Changes can be made to the intensity, total time, type of exercise, reps, sets, weight lifted, etc.
Keep An Exercise Log
Keep an exercise log. Monitoring the amount of exercise you perform each day will allow you to track your progress, determine what changes need to be made to your exercise program, and will keep you more accountable. A resistance training log should include the exercises performed, sets, reps, weight lifted, and your RPE (rate of perceived exertion). While a cardio training log should include your total workout time, and heart rate or RPE.