4 Tips To Become More Active
Welcome to Dr. Hurst's Healthy Questions Answered.
“Happiness comes from physical activity; sorrow from thought.”
~ Marty Rubin
If all the benefits of regular physical activity were available in a pill, we’d all be taking it! Regular physical activity is the key to weight loss and having more energy. It’s also a very effective treatment for high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and many other health problems.
Joan is 51 years old and was sent to me by her primary doctor because of high blood pressure. Joan is particularly worried about her blood pressure because her mom had high blood pressure and died at a young age from a stroke.
Joan doesn’t want the same fate as her mom, but she doesn’t want to take meds either. Her doctor told her she might be able to avoid medicine if she started exercising and lost some weight, which she was enthusiastic about, at least at first. She changed her diet and is eating healthier than she was before. She’s even lost weight! But the exercise part has not gone well. She joined a gym and hired a personal trainer to show her the ropes. At her first visit, the trainer put her through a vigorous hour long workout. Not surprisingly, she hated it and was sore for a week.
She hasn’t found the courage to go back.
Physical Activity as a Treatment for High Blood Pressure
For many of my patients, the desire to avoid medication is a strong motivator to be more active. They are often pleasantly surprised at how effective regular physical activity is in lowering their blood pressure.
The Fountain of Youth
Physical activity is the least expensive, and most effective, of all anti-aging treatments. More than 50 scientific studies have shown that those who exercise regularly live longer than those who don’t. And marathons are not required! Even moderate exercise, (like walking 1.5 miles in 30 minutes 5 days a week) decreases the risk of death by about 25%.
It really is the fountain of youth!
Getting Started with Regular Physical Activity
The majority of us have tried – and failed – to be regularly active in the past. I personally spent many years doing bursts of exercise but couldn’t stick to it. But what I’ve learned is, with the right strategy anyone can reap the rewards of regular physical activity.
First things first, it’s important to consult your physician before starting an exercise program. Once you have received your doctor’s approval, here is what I tell my patients.
4 Tips to Become More Active
1. Start slow but do it every day. Build the habit.
This one sounds easy, but starting at too high of a level is probably the biggest mistake made by people new to exercise. It’s natural to be excited about your new goals and it’s easy to be too ambitious at the beginning. The problem is that doing too much too early leads to injury or dreading the activity because it’s painful. Do yourself a favor this time; start slow but DO IT EVERYDAY. Even 5-10 minutes a day can be the start you need to get amazing results over time.
2. Measure your progress.
You’ve heard the saying, “If you want to improve something, measure it.” Tracking activity can be the magic ingredient needed to achieve your goals. There are several ways to measure your progress. You can track the total time spent being active or get a pedometer that tracks your steps. The tool I like best is an activity tracker that automatically loads your steps to your computer or phone and allows you to share your progress with your community. These simple devices make tracking easier and there are several on the market including Fitbit, Withings, Garmin, Misfit and Jawbone.
3: Find your why and set goals that make sense to you.
Frederick Nietzsche said it best: ““He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Sticking with regular activity is challenging, but being clear why makes it easier. Think about why you really want to be regularly active and write it down. Your “why” may be you want to play with your grandchildren, have more energy or be more attractive to your spouse. Whatever your reason, if you’re doing it for you and not because you “have to”, it’s a lot easier to remain motivated.
4 Don’t Sit
“No pain, no gain” is a common belief, but isn’t true. The health benefits of physical activity start at much more modest levels. In fact, there is a lot of research showing that simply sitting less has important health benefits. Find reasons to sit as little as possible. Some people have a standing desk at work or set their phone alarm to remind them to get up and move every hour. Others do their television watching on a treadmill or stationary bike.
Even if you’ve always hated exercise, these strategies can make regular physical activity a part of your life. Building the habit of regular physical activity doesn’t take long, but the rewards last a lifetime.
And the Beat Goes On,
R. Todd Hurst, MD, FASE, FCCC