Finding time and energy to squeeze regular exercise into your schedule can be a challenge, but it’s an important part of staying healthy, both physically and mentally.
“Regular physical activity is not only important to maintain your overall fitness and a healthy weight,” says Angie Hill, senior exercise physiologist at Tidelands Healthpoint Center for Health and Fitness, “but it can also help decrease stress and blood pressure and increase bone density, among many other benefits.”
The good news, Hill says, is you already have all the tools you need to begin or restart an effective routine – you just need to be smart about how you use them.
That starts with building an exercise plan around SMART goals — as in Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relatable and Timely.
Start your SMART exercise plan by talking with a certified exercise physiologist to determine what kind of exercise program is right for you. An exercise physiologist can help you create a customized routine to reach your specific fitness and health goals using techniques that are safe, effective — and, perhaps most importantly – fun.
“Building more activity into your daily life takes a plan of action,” Hill says. “Your plan should include goals, an exercise program designed to help you reach those goals and accountability.”
Once you set your health and fitness goals, you should develop an exercise program that includes a blend of aerobic/cardiovascular and resistance training to help you achieve them. Cardio can be as simple as going for a 10-minute walk every other day if you’re a beginner, or as serious as a 60-minute high-intensity daily fitness class if you’re more experienced. Whatever you do, the key is to get your body moving and lungs pumping through aerobic activity.
Beyond aerobic activity, adding strength training a few times a week can help build or maintain muscle tone and bone density, particularly as you age. The good news is you don’t have to sling iron like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Latex resistance bands can be an effective way for beginners to start strength training. Later, exercise machines and free weights can boost the challenge.
Accountability is key
Once you determine a path forward, accountability is the way to keep yourself in your groove. That can take a variety of forms, but they’re all designed to help you stay focused and consistent to get the maximum benefit from your workouts.
One great approach to remain consistent is to build exercise into your day. Schedule your workout at the same time to make sure nothing interrupts it. Get a Fitbit or other similar device to track your activity. When you go to the gym, join a fitness class, hire an exercise physiologist or find a workout partner – someone who’ll keep you on task when you might otherwise stay on the couch.
“It’s never too late to start exercising,” Hill says. “The best routine is the one you enjoy and do consistently. That will bring you the greatest benefit in the long run.”