The human body was designed for activity. Of all the different ways to improve your physical and mental health, exercise is one of the easiest and safest methods. It is also one of the most effective. When people are active every day, they have greater overall energy and find it easier to maintain weight and prevent chronic diseases. There is also an important mental benefit. Exercise stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline. Staying active helps you concentrate better at work and helps your child focus better at school.
Benefits of Physical Activity:
- Boost your energy! Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more get-up-and-go
- Lower your risk for chronic disease such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis and colon cancer
- Control blood pressure and build a healthy heart
- Boost your mood and reduce stress, anxiety and depression
- Strengthen your mental focus
- Improve muscle strength and flexibility
- Reach and maintain a healthy weight
- Build and maintain bones and joints
- Prevent arthritis and relieves arthritis pain.
- Reduce the risk of falling among older adults.
Recommendations for all ages
The following guidelines are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re worried you won’t have enough time, break your activity up into smaller amounts of time. Remember, any amount of activity is better than none.
60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week. Healthy exercise and eating habits developed now will serve your children for their lifetime. The most simple to access activities include bicycling, walking, running, playing tag, climbing on playground equipment, dancing, one-on-one soccer or basketball.
Adults of all ages
Cardio or aerobic activities
Choose one of the following- an equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity:
30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day (such as brisk walking) most days of the week.
20 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity (such as jogging or running) 3 days a week.
Resistance, strength-building, and weight-bearing activities
Maintaining good strength and flexibility improves energy and mental alertness, reduces aches and pains and risks of falling among older adults. Strength building exercises include pushups, abdominal crunches and weight training. Complete all movements in a slow, controlled fashion. Maintain normal breathing throughout the exercise. Stop any exercise that causes pain. Stretch after your workout. If you are starting strength building exercises for the first time, be sure to consult an exercise or fitness professional and learn how to do the exercises correctly to prevent injury.
Flexible and strong muscles are important for overall fitness. Stretching will help you stay injury free and help you stick to your goals. Remember, if you make your muscles work harder than they usually do, a little soreness is normal. But if your muscles hurt after you’re done, or for several days, get advice from your fitness professional. You may need to vary your routine. When stretching, hold each position for 20 to 30 seconds. You should feel a gentle pull, it should not hurt. Hold each stretch steady without bouncing. Breathe normally. Repeat stretches 1 to 3 times on each side.
Hamstring Stretch: Stand in front of a low step or bench and place left heel on it. Place hands on right leg for support. Push your hips back as if you were sitting down. Keep your back straight and your neck flexed. Repeat with left side.
Calf Stretch: Using the wall or a chair as support, place one foot behind the other. With front knee slightly bent, back knee straight and heel down, lean hips forward. Repeat on the opposite side.
Knee to Chest Stretch: Lie on the floor. Lift one knee to your chest. Place your hands behind the lifted knee and pull it toward you. Keep the opposite leg straight on the floor. Repeat with other leg.
Overhead Reach: Stand or sit tall. Clasp your hands together over your head. Reach toward the ceiling with both hands. Pull your elbows slightly behind your ears. Keep your shoulders down.
Make exercise easy
Fitness doesn’t have to be a chore, it can be easy and fun and you don’t need a gym membership or expensive equipment. Walking is one of the easiest, least expensive ways to get fit. But there are plenty of other ways to be active. Here are some ideas:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Take a walk during your break or lunch.
- Have walking meetings.
- Park the car further away from your destination and walk.
- Bike your neighborhood, to the store or to the park
- Take a family walk after dinner.
- Walk the dog.
- Play a sport.
Walk and Bike Your Way to Health
Walking is an ideal exercise for many people—it doesn’t require any special equipment, can be done any time, any place, and is generally very safe. What’s more, studies have demonstrated that this simple form of exercise substantially reduces the chances of developing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes in different populations. Walking and biking are also green ways to commute to work—good for the environment, and good for you. Check out our resource guide to Ventura County walking/ hiking.
- Join a fitness group, club or a Parks and Recreation program
- Ventura County Public Health offers free Get Fit! classes and health programs.
- Talk to your health care provider about good activities to try.
- Speak to the worksite wellness coordinator at your job.
- Visit healthfinder.gov and type “activity” in the search box or join the Presidents Fitness Challenge
Sources: California Champions for Change, Presidents Challenge, US Department of Health and Human Services