Try these basic steps to work toward reducing sedentary behaviors and getting more physical activity and exercise:
1. Start by reducing sedentary behaviors. Anything that requires that you sit still for a prolonged period of time is a sedentary behavior. These include watching television, playing video games, using the computer, or reading. Sedentary behaviors put you on the sideline rather than in the game. Cutting back on these activities will almost certainly make you move your body more throughout the day, which helps you meet the minimum physical activity needed for heart health.
2. Next, plan to incorporate some time for physical activity into your daily routine. Planning physical activity helps you make sure you don’t put it off as the day goes on. Any activity counts as physical activity if it raises your heart rate and lasts for at least 10 minutes at a time. But even if you just move more than you usually have done in the past, you are making progress toward being more physically active. So, do what you can and get started with these ideas.
- While it is sometimes necessary and enjoyable to watch television, use the computer, or read, build 10-minute breaks into your sedentary time to take a walk around the block or walk up and down a flight of stairs.
- During commercial breaks (or build up to a whole 30-minute program), do a series of strength building exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, leg lunges, and leg squats. You can also use household items such as water bottles as weights to tone your arm muscles while watching television.
- Save your television watching or magazine reading for the gym. Use a stationary bike or treadmill with a television attached, or download your favorite shows if you have a video mp3 player such as an iPod and bring it with you. It may help motivate you to want to be active.
- Make it a habit to take the stairs instead of an escalator or elevator.
- Instead of trying to park closest to the store entrance, aim to park as far away as you can and try to enjoy the walk.
- The housework counts, so enjoy a clean house. Vacuum, sweep, and mop the floors, clean the windows, and so on.
- The yard work counts, too, so enjoy the outdoors. Mow the lawn, rake leaves, plant flowers, and grow a vegetable garden.
- Use a pedometer to record the number of steps you take each day and aim to increase your steps week by week. You can work toward a goal of 10,000 steps per day, if you’re able.
- Try bowling, fishing, or playing darts. You won’t burn a lot of calories, but you’ll enjoy becoming more active (and it will keep you from being sedentary.)
3. Finally, when you are ready, plan to add in some structured exercise that will vary your body movements. Expanding your physical activity to include different types of exercise can offer you variety. This helps you enjoy physical activity and keep your body challenged to see continual progress toward your physical fitness goals.
- Enjoy the outdoors. Try walking, jogging, bicycling, hiking, etc.
- Get a gym membership to take advantage of the many types of exercise you may be able to do indoors: walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming, racket ball, volleyball, basketball, etc.
- Sign up for an exercise class, such as yoga, Pilates, or dancing.
- Take tennis or golf lessons.
- Work with a personal trainer at a gym to learn to lift weights.
- If you are an older adult, or you have limited mobility, or heart failure, you may need to review these special considerations. If your doctor gives you clearance to exercise, these guidelines can help you adjust physical activities to your abilities.