Exercise has a wealth of health benefits, but did you know it is key in such things as our mental health, and even our longevity? Recent studies have found that those who live the longest (100+ years) remain active throughout their life span. According to writer Ashley Abramson of Eating Well magazine, research shows that exercise significantly reduces the risk of life-threatening diseases, slows the aging process, and improves our general wellbeing.
The good news is that while a lifetime of exercise has great health benefits, benefits can be reaped whenever you start- whether you’re 25 or 60. Someone sedentary beginning exercise after fifty can still add years to their lives.
Here in short are some of the many physical benefits of exercise:
- Lower body fat and cholesterol
- Better immune and organ function
- Lower risk of cancer, diabetes & high blood pressure
- Reduced risk of injury due to greater muscle and bone strength
There are also significant psychological benefits to exercise such as reduction of stress, lower risk of depression, and improvements in memory. It is clear that we need physical movement to remain healthy and to age well. Our kids need it too, and promoting the importance of exercise in childhood will help increase the likelihood that this will become a lifelong behavior for your child. So, how do we get started?
Any exercise is better than none. Experts recommend 130 – 300 minutes of moderate exercise a week. This amounts to about 20-40 minutes a day on average. However, less exercise can still have health benefits – so begin gradually and work your way up! The goal at first is to stop being sedentary which poses serious health risks- therefore, any exercise is better than none.
No gym membership is required (unless you prefer working out at a gym). According to writer Abramson, experts recommend going for simple walks and incorporating weight-bearing exercises. If you don’t have any equipment at home but no time for a gym, water bottles or canned goods can serve as weights. For equipment, stores such as Five & Below sell very inexpensive weights or exercise bands to try. Watch online videos to learn how to do weight-bearing exercises safely.
Add natural movement. Try to be intentional about getting more active during your day. Park a bit further from your destination so you have to walk, take the stairs instead of the elevator, get up out of your chair, stand or take a brief walk every half hour while at work.
Make exercise fun. If you hate jogging, don’t jog. Forcing yourself to do something you hate, won’t last. Try a variety of exercises to see what you like. If you enjoy it, you will likely continue to do it. Was there something you once loved like dancing? Are you curious about something new like yoga? Youtube is full of different videos to try for free.
Get Support: In the beginning, it can be tough to motivate yourself. Partner with someone- a friend, partner or family member and exercise together. Walk in person or while chatting on the phone; check in that your workout partner is following through and ask them to do the same for you.
Make it a family affair. Make exercise a regular part of family time. Put down devices and get out for a walk or hike at the park. Remember it’s never too late or too soon to increase your movement or that of your kids! Help build healthy habits together!