Getting and staying active is one of the best things you can do for your health. When you exercise, you improve your physical health, maintain weight, help prevent brain and memory decline, and increase your life span. So whether you’re not yet active or just want to keep staying active through the years, here are 20 tips that both time and research have shown to be effective!
1. Track Your Steps
Pedometers, fitness trackers like the Fitbit, and even smart phones can help you monitor how many steps you’re taking throughout the day. But while the old guidelines say 10,000 steps a day were the standard, the latest research has upped it to 15,000 steps/day. Keep a tracker on you and check it regularly to see how close you are to meeting the mark. If you’re a bit short, you know to take a few extra steps to get to your goal.
2. Join a Gym
Only about 18% of Americans go to the gym, but those that do engage in 14 times more aerobic activity, are 10 times more likely to meet strength-training guidelines, and most exceed standards and get up to 6 extra hours of exercise into their weekly routine. When you’re paying for a membership and putting yourself into an environment where others are working out, staying active is easier with so much motivation. In addition, gyms have professional trainers on staff who can help you tailor a workout routine that meets your needs at any age or physical condition.
3. Lift Weights
People often think of bodybuilders when they hear “weight lifting,” but this type of resistance training actually helps maintain muscle mass and strength as we age. And the good news is you don’t have to lift heavy weights to see benefits. Lifting lighter weights for more repetitions on a regular workout schedule can provide nearly identical benefits when it comes to muscle strength, lean muscle mass, and muscle fiber size.
4. Partner Up
Sometimes it’s hard to stay active when you have to go it alone. In addition, if our partners aren’t as active, we tend to slow down our own activity in response. Finding a partner who’s willing to exercise with you makes men and women more than 66% more likely to increase physical activity.
5. Focus on Quality, Not Quantity
Doing more isn’t always better – quality over quantity is a real thing. Research shows that following a varied exercise regimen that includes resistance training, interval sprint exercise (alternating walking with more intense spurts of jogging or sprints), stretching like yoga or Pilates, and endurance exercise is the most effective way to lose weight and fat mass and gain lean body mass.
6. Be Strong & Balanced
Injury, whether acute or from overuse, is a common concern when we work out, but studies show that exercise is actually the best way to prevent injuries. Muscle-building strength training may reduce injury by 68%, balance exercises for improving joint stability may reduce risk by 52%, and multi-method exercise regimens are associated with a 37% decreased risk of injury. And being stronger and more balanced can help prevent falls and fall-related injuries.
7. Go for Four
If you’re finding it hard to exercise every day, don’t worry. Exercising just four days a week can be more beneficial than a daily workout, especially for older women. Four weekly workouts, divided into two weight-training days and two cardio-endurance days, can help you be just as fit and strong as if you worked out six days a week.
8. Play Games
Getting your daily dose of physical activity can often feel like a chore. But thanks to technology, you can literally play games to get your fitness on. Both video game systems and apps can integrate dance and sports moves (tennis, ping pong, bowling,, and archery, just to name a few) to make it easier for you to stay active at home.
9. Ride a Bike
Cycling is a terrific form of aerobic activity that helps improve cardiovascular health, strengthens muscles and joints, burns calories for weight loss, improves coordination, benefits mental health, increases longevity, and boosts the immune system. Riding a bike outdoors, like a road bike, comfort bike, or a cruiser by the beach, or cycling indoors in a spin class both count towards improving health, so choose your favorite option from these similar yet different ways to stay active.
10. 10 at a Time
Get bored easily? Find a long workout dreadful? Studies show that just three short 10-minute bursts of exercise, like brisk walking on a treadmill at 75% max heart rate, can be beneficial for a number of health conditions, including obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
11. Exercise in the Morning
If you leave your workout to the end of the day, there’s a good chance life will get in the way and derail your exercise plans. By getting your physical activity knocked out in the morning, you’ll not only ensure you tick off that box on your to-do list but also boost energy levels so you can stay active without burning out the rest of the day.
12. Get a Pet
Pets aren’t just cute additions to the family – they can actually benefit our health. Not only do they improve mood, help build immunity to allergies, lower blood pressure, and help prevent cognitive decline, they encourage healthy activities to keep us moving. Just walking a dog or cat (or, rather, being walked by them) can help us meet the minimum recommendation for daily physical activity and help us walk faster and longer over time.
13. Take a Dip
Swimming is a great way to stay active because it gives you a full-body workout but is low-impact. The water provides resistance that strengthens muscles, and doing laps helps elevate heart rate and improve heart health. Many gyms and fitness centers offer water aerobics classes that are right for all fitness levels.
14. Do Yoga
Yoga can seem intimidating to those who haven’t tried it, but it’s a perfect solution to reduce stress, improve flexibility, and increase strength and stamina. There are traditional (Iyengar, Ashtanga) and contemporary styles (Bikram, Forrest, Hatha) at all levels, and you need very little equipment to start. And because it’s an activity for all ages, it can be an effective method for staying active through the years.
15. Take a Hike
Who says exercise always has to be a routine? For those who enjoy being outdoors, hiking is one of the best ways to stay active. Even just a moderate hike can burn upwards of 300-400 calories in an hour. Plus, being able to enjoy nature’s beautiful scenery will make it feel less like a workout and more like a day off.
16. Stretch Out
Stretching exercises like yoga and Pilates help muscles prepare for activity, prevent injury and strain, and increase range of motion and flexibility. These exercises are great for people who have a difficult time with more vigorous forms of exercise, and they can be a way to stay active at home through the use of video media that shows how to do these exercises.
Want to know how to stay active while having a fun social life? Dancing can help improve gait and balance, and helps prevent injuries from falls. Getting your groove on is also an enjoyable way to squeeze in a cardiovascular workout. And you don’t even have to bring a partner for most classes, so it can be a great way to meet new people who can become activity partners.
18. Shop Without Spending
Go window-shopping, that is. Going to the mall is a great way to get exercise in way that doesn’t necessarily feel like work. You can walk and climb stairs to meet that 15,000 steps/day goal, in a safe environment that’s temperature-controlled and just fun to be in. Many malls open early just for “mall walkers,” and of course, if you feel so inclined, you can always reward yourself by making your pockets a little lighter.
19. Spend Time in the Garden
If you’ve got a green thumb, gardening can be a good way to get the 2.5 hours of weekly activity suggested by the CDC. Planting, digging, wedding, pruning, and watering can burn calories comparable to those burned taking a brisk walk – between 135-200 calories per half hour. Those activities can also improve mobility and flexibility. And of course, when you’re doing something you love, it’s easy for the time to fly by without it feeling like work or a workout.
20. Go On Vacation
You don’t always have to stay active at home. If you love to travel, then get your exercise while exploring a new and interesting place. Bike around the sights, walk through museums, take a dip in the pool or ocean – having fun can help you get more physical activity than you would normally. You’ll come back with happy memories and want to do it all over again.
David H. Rahm, M.D. is the founder and medical director of The Wellness Center, a medical clinic located in Long Beach, CA. Dr. Rahm is also president and medical director of VitaMedica. Dr. Rahm is one of a select group of conventional medical doctors who have education and expertise in functional medicine and nutritional science. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Rahm has published articles in the plastic surgery literature and educated physicians about the importance of good peri-operative nutrition.