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USDA Exercise Guidelines

Achieving Your Exercise Goals

Now that you've looked at aerobic activity, strength training, and stretching, you should construct a plan for the amount of calories you would like to burn. Jot down activities that you see yourself doing. What sounds interesting? What sounds like fun? About how much time would you like to spend doing them? When could you do them? How often? Do you feel like doing them at a moderately intense level or a vigorous level? Be realistic. Write down the activities you'd like to do and at what intensity level, how long you think you will do them, and how many calories you'll spend doing each activity. Make sure to include a variety of activities to prevent boredom. Now write out a plan for each day of the week. Studies show that if people say they are going to do something and write it down, they are more likely to follow through and do it.

Make Your
Own Weights!
To make your own weights, fill a couple of half-liter bottles with water. Or use a one-gallon milk jug with a built-in handle: Filled with water, the jug weighs 8.3 pounds. To make it heavier, fill it with sand or lead shot. 

Try to include aerobic and stretching activities every day. Add strength-building activities at least two or three times a week. Start gradually. Consider your current activity level and add a little to it. If you're not active on a regular basis, decide which two or three days of the week you could begin to be active. After you've accomplished that for a couple of weeks, revisit your plan and set a new goal to increase your activity a little more. An effective goal might be something like:
  • Starting on Monday, I will walk briskly for 15 minutes before and after work three days this week.

  • While watching TV this week, I will lift hand weights every other day and walk around the house during every commercial break during a one-hour show.
To motivate yourself even further, post your goal where you'll encounter it often, and share your goal with friends or relatives.

You may have to make a special effort to get yourself moving at first. It typically takes about two months to cross the threshold from dread to desire. Give yourself the time to get there, knowing that it will get easier. Take it one day at a time and stick with your plan. Soon you'll be disappointed if something interferes with your time to be active. Here are some techniques to move you along the path to being more active and loving it.

Attitude Makeover
  • If your attitude's holding you back, consider spending time with people who like to be active -- their positive attitudes can be contagious! Or read fitness magazine articles and success stories or a book about the rise of a sports star.

  • Talk positively to yourself about activity, write positive slogans out and post them.

  • Decide to change your attitude, and do it -- your mind is the most powerful tool you have to get yourself moving. For movement to become a part of your long-term lifestyle, it's important that you choose activities you'll enjoy. If you're not sure what you like, try different things. Perhaps join friends who do an activity you've never done before.

  • Decide to spend less of your leisure time in sedentary activities, such as watching TV or sitting in front of the computer. If you limit your "screen time," you'll automatically be more active.

  • Start a hobby that naturally includes activity: Do you like to hike, dance, bowl, golf, or shop 'til you drop?
Steps to Success

Once you've decided on a few activities to pursue, take these important steps to ensure your success:
  • Keep an activity log so you can follow your progress. Keep track of the times you were active, what activity you did, how long you did it, at what level of intensity, and how you felt during and afterward. This log can also serve as a trouble-shooting tool to see where sedentary activities creep in or what might be interfering with being active.

  • Get support. Ask family, friends, and colleagues to support your efforts.

  • Involve your family and friends. Think of things you can do together. Dance together to the radio or your favorite music, make play the focus of get-togethers rather than food, and have plenty of active toys on hand for adults and kids alike. Plan an outing that includes physical activity rather than sedentary activities.

  • Give yourself permission to take time off. Especially when you're sick or feeling fatigued. After you're feeling better, you can resume a low-level activity plan and work back up to your regular routine. Listen to your body, and stop activity if you have chest discomfort or pain, dizziness, severe headache, or other unusual symptoms. If they don't go away, get medical attention immediately.

  • Celebrate your successes. Give yourself a nonfood reward for reaching a goal.
Though many people believe that the USDA Dietary Guidelines involve only food, they also serve to recommend good amounts of exercise. Getting the right amount of exercise each day takes just a little bit of knowledge and willpower. With the right information, you can be on your way to a happier, healthier lifestyle.

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.