Exercise Options: Selecting and Starting a Programmed Physical Activity
The more you enjoy a physical activity, the more likely you are to commit to it as part of a regular routine
Physical activity can be one key to success in weight management.
It can reduce your risk for heart disease and other serious illnesses. Being active can give you more energy and make you feel better about your body. It can also improve your mood. Best of all, it can help you maintain your weight loss.
Identifying and overcoming barriers
Identifying things that prevent you from being physically active can be very helpful. Embarrassment about your body and fear of new things can stand in your way. Many people also feel they are too busy and have trouble fitting in activity.
Identify your own barriers and plan how you will overcome them together with your healthcare provider. Let’s take the example of Judy. She has been struggling to meet her activity goal of 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week. Judy is very busy: she works full-time and has 2 children. She feels like she has no time to be active.
Judy thinks she would really like water aerobics because she loves the water, and her healthcare provider approves of this choice. But, Judy is afraid that people will laugh when she puts on a bathing suit. She also would like to spend more time walking.
Judy described these problems to her sister, Sarah. Together, they brainstormed some solutions. Sarah suggested Judy bring her toddler Jake on her walk. Jake enjoys the time outdoors. Plus, pushing the stroller adds extra activity. Sarah offered to watch Judy’s kids when Judy goes to her water aerobics class. In return, Judy would take Sarah’s kids to the park while Sarah goes to yoga class.
Judy was still worried about wearing a swimsuit in public. Sarah pointed out that most people are so self-conscious in a swimsuit they do not notice what others look like. This thought helped Judy feel better. Sarah and Judy also went swimsuit shopping together. They found a suit that made Judy feel more comfortable and confident for her class.
Choosing the best physical activity for you
The "best" activity is the one approved by your healthcare provider. It is also likely to be the one you enjoy enough to do again. Aerobic exercise can be the best way to improve your heart health. Aerobic means "in the presence of oxygen." You know you are performing aerobic exercise when you start breathing faster, your heart rate increases, and you can sustain that level of activity for an extended period of time. In contrast, anaerobic exercise means "without oxygen" and describes the level of physical activity when you lose your breath quickly and can only sustain activity for a few moments. Examples of anaerobic exercise include weight lifting and sprinting. Aerobic exercise burns more calories from fat. There are so many aerobic exercises; you may have plenty of choices!
Aerobic activities use large muscle groups. These include muscles in your legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms. Brisk walking, hiking, running, swimming, cycling, stair climbing, cross-country skiing, dancing, jumping rope, water aerobics, skating, and rollerblading are all aerobic activities. These activities strengthen the heart and lungs. They also improve the body’s ability to use oxygen. Over time, aerobic exercise can decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. It can also improve your breathing.
When picking an activity, consider these 4 things:
- Choose something you can do. Consider your current physical condition when choosing an activity. For example, basketball is hard work. It may not be a good idea if you are not in great condition. Consult with your healthcare provider and start with an activity where you can move at your own pace. Walking and cycling are activities that you may easily adjust to meet your needs
- Choose something you like to do. Hiking may be something that you’ve always wanted to do. Try it! Many people enjoy Nintendo Wii Sports games or Wii Fit activities. Pick something you like and see if your healthcare provider approves. The right activity is likely to be the one you enjoy and will probably stick with
- Choose a solo or social activity. Would you like to be active alone or with others? If you are a social person, having others around may help you stay motivated. Others enjoy the "alone time." Pick what’s right for you
- Do not be embarrassed. People may avoid being active in public because they might feel embarrassed—about their bodies, their clothes, and their poor physical condition. If this sounds like you, try to put this thought aside. Take a deep breath, and ask yourself, "Which is more important, avoiding embarrassment or improving my health?"
It’s probably best if you have more than one activity you enjoy and do it regularly. The variety is fun and can be good for you. It also makes it easier to find an activity that fits your day! Let’s take Todd as an example. Todd likes walking and riding his stationary bike. He prefers to be active in the morning. During the week, it is still dark outside when he wakes up. He doesn’t like walking in the dark, so he rides his stationary exercise bike. Todd watches sports news to make the ride more fun. He really looks forward to having his weekend walks outside in the sunshine. When it rains on the weekends, he rides his bike inside instead and watches DVDs. By having 2 activities he enjoys, Todd makes sure he can follow his healthcare provider’s recommendations and be active most days. He uses sports news, music, and DVDs to make his activity time enjoyable.
Most people can find more than one activity they can do. If an outside activity is not possible, then an inside one might work. The key is whether you can stay active months or years from now. This can mostly depend on whether you enjoy it, and that may depend on variety. If you only enjoy one type of activity, that’s probably fine too.
Make it social
For many people, making a physical activity social makes it more enjoyable. Walking with a friend can be a great way to make walking fun. In addition to a walk, you could try an exercise class with a friend or go for a bike ride. This can also be a good strategy to enhance motivation. Knowing that someone else is counting on you can motivate you to be active when you would rather sit on the sofa.
Having a friend with you can make it easier to try a new activity, too. If you and a friend sign up for a new exercise class, you know that there will be another beginner in the class with you!