This guest blog post was written by Dr. Bob Murray
In Food & Fitness After 50, we describe the importance of regular exercise for health and longevity. We know that for many people, words such as “exercise”, “training”, and “workouts” are turn-offs, terms they can’t relate to and don’t want to consider as part of their lifestyle. That’s no problem! Most important for all of us is to adhere to a simple concept: sit less and move more. Improving our health is as simple as that one painless step. By reducing the time we sit, our increased movement throughout the day results in more calories burned and challenges our hearts, muscles, and bones to gradually improve their capacities. For those who have spent the past decades doing just the opposite—sitting more and moving less—changing that habit is one of the easiest and most effective steps we can take toward better health.
Here are our top 5 tips to easily experience the long-term benefits of moving more:
- Make sitting-less a priority. During each weekday, set an alarm to sound every hour (or less if you’d like) as a reminder to get up and move around. If you’re stuck at your desk or in a meeting, moving around may be nothing more than standing for a few minutes. If you have the opportunity, use those regular breaks from sitting to take a walk, stretch, or do a few exercises. Television commercials can be another prompt to get up and move, just don’t use those opportunities to visit the refrigerator!
- Make moving-more easy to accomplish. Family responsibilities and work require most of our time and energy, so it’s no surprise that many people want and need some down time to decompress. If your day is jam packed and there simply is no time (or energy) to devote to formal exercise, there are still easy ways to move more. For example, if you drive to your job—or ride a train or bus—take a longer way to walk to work. Even an extra five minutes of walking before and then again after work can make a big difference over time. If you have the chance to take a walk at lunch or during a break, that extra movement just adds to the benefits. Also keep in mind that we don’t have to do all of our physical activity at one time; breaking things into ten-minute periods three times each day is an easy way to achieve a total of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity. Spreading out our activity over the day may actually be as good as or better than exercising for an hour and being sedentary for the other 23 hours.
- Make moving-more enjoyable. Common sense tells us that we’re more likely to continue to do the activities we most enjoy. For that reason alone, moving-more should consist of whatever physical activities you most enjoy. This simple lesson is especially important for those who have not exercised for decades, but have decided it’s time to increase daily physical activity. Remember that housework, gardening, and mowing the lawn all count as moving-more. We may not always enjoy those activities, but they all contribute to the goal of moving more.
- Make moving-more fit your lifestyle. It can be frustrating to get excited about changing our fitness habits only to soon realize that we can not sustain the commitment of time or energy. If your weekday schedule is crammed with family and work responsibilities, trying to find time to exercise can add stress. Do your best to move more each day and use the weekends to get in the exercise you couldn’t fit into your chaotic week.
- Make moving-more a regular habit. If you are one of the millions of Americans who are overweight and out of shape, your lifestyle will have to change if you hope to become slimmer and fitter. Some people are successful at making large and abrupt changes in their lifestyles, but most of us find success in initially making small changes and gradually building on those over time. If you haven’t exercised in decades, it makes more sense to develop new move-more habits by taking a daily 5-minute walk in one direction and then returning home than it does to sign up for a 12-week body-pump class. Start small, develop a new habit that’s easy to maintain, and then gradually add more time and intensity.
Food & Fitness After 50 contains common-sense, science-based tips and resources that can help us eat well, move well, and be well. Remember, the journey to better physical and mental health can begin with something a simple as a walk around the neighborhood. Food & Fitness After 50 is published by Eatright Press, a division of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is available at Amazon.