USDA Dietary Guidelines: Easy Ways to Start Exercising

Exercise doesn't have to be hard or uncomfortable.
Exercise doesn't have to be hard or uncomfortable.
Publications International, Ltd.

Being physically active is fun and feels good. Remove the evil word exercise from your vocabulary, substitute the words physical activity, and see how your attitude immediately becomes more positive. Most people don't like to exercise, but who doesn't like to move their body? Just imagine for a minute, if you couldn't move, how much you would suddenly want to. Since you are graced with the ability to move, take advantage of it. This article will help you explore different activities and find those that feel good to you. We'll also focus on some exercising tips.

On the Move

Since you're looking to be active 30 to 90 minutes each day, you'll want to have a variety of activities in your repertoire. You can do many activities by yourself, but others are better suited to a group or a partner. In fact, it's a good idea to find an "activity buddy" who wants to make lifestyle changes, too. There may be a day when you're not in the mood to be active but your buddy will encourage you to get moving.

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One of the special things about physical activity is that it boosts your mood as well as your metabolism. Your mood will perk up after the activity, and you'll be glad your buddy encouraged you.

Undoubtedly there will be a chance for you to return the favor. Have an alternative plan if your buddy can't make it. Don't let that impact your routine -- go ahead and keep your appointment with yourself. Lack of time is the most common reason people are not physically active. But taking care of your body through activity is just as important as nourishing it or keeping your doctor's appointment.

What can you do to make time for activity?

  • Get up half an hour earlier. That might mean turning off the TV a half hour earlier the night before so that you still get the rest you need. You can record the end of your TV show, and watch it the next day.
  • Delegate a few duties to other family members to give you the time you need to take care of yourself and be more active.
  • Use your lunch hour. Take a walk or go to a nearby gym if you can.

In the next section we will look at more exercising tips, including adding more muscle and keeping your calorie balance in mind.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Adding Activity to Your Daily Routine

There are many opportunities to be more active in your daily routine. You'll be surprised at how easily you can fit in a little bit of activity here, a little more movement there. At first it's 10 minutes, then 20, then suddenly you've worked 30 extra minutes of movement into your day without doing any structured type of activity. Make a game of it -- it can be fun! Encourage family members to join in, and you'll all become healthier together.

Here are just some of the ways to increase your activity. Pick one or create your own!

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  • Put away the remote controls. Getting up every time you want to adjust electronic equipment burns more calories than pressing a button.
  • Talking on the phone? Put on a headset so that you can walk or do household chores instead of sitting.
  • Waiting for the microwave? Walk or dance around the kitchen, or use cans from the cupboards as weights and pump up your arms until the microwave's done.
  • Be active when you're watching TV. Lift weights, walk on a treadmill or other home aerobic equipment, jump rope (not every day, as this is hard on the joints), stretch -- there are lots of things you can do while in front of the tube.
  • Give up just a percentage of your TV viewing per week and be active instead -- take a walk or do an aerobics video. This is especially painless to do if you tape your favorite shows, then watch them later and fast-forward through the commercials. You'll minimize your sitting time without missing your programs!
  • When you're riding in the car, move your lower body frequently. Tap your toes, do heel-toe presses into the floor, squeeze the muscles in your buttocks together, then squeeze one side at a time, alternating sides. If you're the driver instead of a passenger, do these moves while waiting at a stoplight -- just keep your foot on the brake! Once you're at work, do the same moves occasionally while sitting at your desk.
  • If feasible, walk to work or ride your bike.
  • When at work, take a walk instead of sitting in the breakroom, and take a walk during part of your lunch period. Recruit a coworker or two to go with you. Soon the social aspect of talking while walking will keep you wanting to walk.
  • At a sporting event? Find a place where you can pace along the sidelines rather than watch from the sitting area.
  • If you're out shopping, take a couple of quick laps around the mall first. Not only does this burn calories, it has the added bonus of letting you check out the displays and plan your shopping venture.
  • Take the stairs instead of elevators or escalators whenever possible. Take the stairs several times throughout the day or walk them intentionally on your break.
  • Keep a pair of comfortable walking shoes in the car. Pull them out whenever you have some extra time.
  • Park farther away from your destination, as long as it's safe to do so, to build in a little extra activity time. Or get off the bus or subway several stops before the one closest to where you're going. Allow extra time to walk the final distance.
  • After work, school, or dinner, take a walk with the family or neighbors before settling in for the evening.
  • Take the long way around when you're walking. Whether it's around the city or merely to the water cooler at the office, find the longest way possible to get there. Include hills or stairs if you can.
  • Waiting at the bus stop? Walk around instead of standing or sitting.
  • Get up and walk to a coworker's desk instead of calling or e-mailing.
  • Sitting at a table, desk, or computer? Do the same activities described for sitting in a car--toe tapping, toe-heel presses, and buttocks squeezes. Be sure to stretch, too; repeat several times.

In the next section we will look at more exercising tips, including adding more muscle and keeping your calorie balance in mind.

Adding Muscle and Balancing Calories

Exercising doesn't come naturally to most people. Here are a few more tips on exercising to get you started on the path to a healthy lifestyle:

Add More Muscle

Since muscle is more metabolically active than fat tissue, you want more of it. Increased muscle mass will use up more calories, making it easier for you to lose weight and keep it off. Toned muscles make you look more trim even before you lose all the pounds. Upper arms look firmer and less flabby. Toned muscles in your lower abdomen help trim the tummy, making it appear flatter as the fat disappears. No one has to go to a gym to get toned muscles. You can improvise weights and other gym equipment right in your own home.

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Other muscle-adding tips include:

  • Use large-size cans of food as small hand weights. As you can handle more weight, use milk jugs.
  • Use bags of frozen vegetables as weights draped across your ankles as you do leg lifts. Be sure to clearly mark these particular vegetable bags as your weights so that you don't inadvertently eat them. After partially thawing many times, they won't be good to eat.
  • Keep hand weights next to the couch, and make TV time strength-training time, too.
  • Buy a good-quality jump rope, and use it often for a heart-pounding workout.
  • Keep sports and play equipment by the door, ready to put to use.

Keep Calorie Balance in Mind

So you did it, you overate some of those discretionary calories in the form of a giant piece of cheesecake at the party. You knew it was loaded with calories, but you just couldn't resist. Don't beat yourself up about it. Instead, beat a path to some extra activity. If you eat more than you intend to now and then, you can always bring your calorie scale back into balance by adding some extra physical activity. By either increasing the duration or intensity of your activities, you can burn more calories.

  • Be proactive. If a holiday or special event is approaching and you know you may eat more than usual, add 10 minutes of extra physical activity to your daily routine for a week or more in advance.
  • Or, increase the intensity of your normal physical activity routine. Either way, you'll be balancing your calorie scale in advance.

One of the keys to any healthy diet is good amounts of exercise. With the right attitude and approach, you can make the USDA Dietary Exercise Tips work for you.  See the next page to see how to maintain your new exercise plan.

 

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Maintaining Your Workout Schedule

Being more active is one-half of your weight-loss plan. That makes it important enough to put on your calendar. An appointment with yourself is just as important as an appointment you would keep with someone else. Don't cancel on yourself. Try not to reschedule. If weight loss is a priority for you, then activity dates become a priority, too. Consistency is vital to getting results from your activity. Being active two days this week and one day next week is good, but it won't peel away the pounds. To see results, you must consistently be active. Gradually work up to being active for 30, 60, or 90 minutes a day -- whatever your goal is -- on most days of the week. Scheduling activity time is a good way to be consistent. Write your activity times on your calendar, and protect them from other obligations.

There are other ways to ensure you keep your workout schedule:

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  • Allow yourself flexibility with your routine. You don't have to be active at the same time every day, unless that works best for you. You might aim for being active before work on several days of the week and after work on the remaining days.
  • Line up options. What happens if the weather is bad or the kids are home sick? Set up an alternate plan, such as doing an aerobics or martial arts video, or dancing to music. You can also go to your local mall and walk several laps. Many malls open early to accommodate mall walkers, and weekday evenings are usually another good, uncrowded time to walk. Think ahead now, so that when something unexpected happens, you'll be ready and able to stay on track.
  • Vary your activities so that you stay interested. A variety of activities will also use and tone different muscles.
  • Set aside one hour each non-workday to take care of things around the yard or house. You burn calories and the chores get done -- what a deal!
  • Check out your local Parks and Recreation department. They typically offer community classes in everything from dancing and yoga to aerobics, swimming, and team sports. Community colleges, too, often offer noncredit courses that will introduce you to new activities.
  • Walk your kids to school instead of driving them. Do the same to pick them up. If time is a concern, choose one of the two.
  • Join a walking club such as the American Volkssport Association -- this non-competitive club conducts walks you do at your own pace in all 50 states. Find a Volkssport group in your area at www.ava.org.
  • *Host a "potluck" of activity equipment. Rather than food, have everyone bring a game that requires physical activity. There will be a smorgasbord of games -- maybe lawn darts, badminton, croquette, hula hoops, balls, and pogo sticks.

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