I used to cringe when someone brought up exercise or getting fit. I knew I should be exercising. I knew I should be fit. I knew all the benefits:
- looking better
- stronger bones
- improved mood
- decreased risk of cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illness
But… well, I could come up with thousands of buts… but those “buts” were getting me nowhere. Then I found the “key.” I discovered how exercise can be fun and easy too.
The key is doing what you enjoy and working it into your daily routine.
There’s probably a thousand ways to get fit. Experiment; find the method or combination of methods that’s right for you. Yoga, Tai Chi, dancing, swimming, yard mowing, house cleaning, running, bike riding—it all counts!
One of the great things about getting fit is it doesn’t really matter where you start; what matters is that you get going.
In fact, it is critical that you don’t do more than your body is ready for. If injured or recovering from an illness, check with your physician before beginning.
If fitness just hasn’t been part of your life and you are… what might be called sedentary (or a “couch potato”) start slow but get going. Some people go to a class, some hire a personal trainer or enlist in a gym, some read a book or buy an instructional DVD, and some just do it.
Let Guilt Go
No need to feel bad or guilty if getting fit just hasn’t been part of your life. Much of the need to focus on “getting fit” came about because of technological advances and the disappearance of most domestic and farm labor.
We used to get fit naturally just by growing and raising our food and doing activities to support our living. Just look around: your washer and dryer replaced the need to wash by hand and hang-up clothes on a clothesline; your car replaced the need to walk or ride your horse into town; your centralized air furnace replaced the need to cut, chop, and carry wood; and so it goes.
Not that we want to go back to those times requiring physical labor just to live, yet research indicates you need daily exercise—about thirty minutes on most days to support a healthy healing system and prevent disease.
Eastern cultures long recognized the importance of fitness. They integrate exercise and meditation into daily cultural activities such as Yoga in India and Tai Chi in China.
I love watching people practice Tai Chi every morning in the parks of San Francisco. Tai Chi is a part of their daily activities, like eating breakfast or reading the paper.
Here are five exercise categories you can choose from to start your getting fit plan depending on your current state of health: aerobic, strengthening, lifestyle, Tai Chi, and Yoga.
Aerobic activity is any activity that increases heart rate and breathing while moving your body.
Start slowly and gently.
Gradually increase the intensity and length of time.
- Brisk walking or jogging
- Aerobic exercise classes
- Sports activities (basketball, tennis, etc.)
- Dancing (square dancing, salsa, etc.)
Strengthening activities build muscle strength using resistance while performing movement patterns like pushing, pulling, squatting, bending, and twisting.
There are a lot of ways you can build strength including using free weights, medicine balls, resistance bands, machines, and your own body weight.
- Focus on working the major muscle groups such as the chest, back, abdomen, legs, and arms.
- Do exercises for each muscle group 2 or 3 times a week.
- Allow at least one day or longer of rest between exercise practices. This allows muscles to recover and rebuild before doing another workout.
Use every day activities to get your blood and muscles moving. It’s an efficient and easy way to burn more calories, build strength, plus boost energy and mood.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Walk to your co-worker’s office instead of using the phone or email
- Park further from building entrances and walk the extra distance
- Take short breaks at work: getup, stretch, and walk
- Playing with children and/or pets
- And I’m sure you can think of more…
Tai Chi offers simple, easy to do movements based on the eternity of the universe, the rhythm of life, and the belief that you can prevent premature aging, if you adapt to and follow this rhythm.
Whenever you feel intellectually or physically tired, Tai Chi can give you back in only a few minutes, your strength, and your harmony. It’s a great way for getting fit if you have arthritis.
- You can find out more about these gentle and powerful exercises and locate classes at http://www.taichicommunity.com.
- It takes a few months of guided instruction to assure you get the positions and rhythm of the movements’ right, then you can easily continue on your own if you wish.
- There are many teaching books, DVDs and videos available.
There are many different kinds of yoga and many yoga benefits.
Hatha yoga, one type of yoga, is a series of gentle stretching poses and breathing exercises. Hatha yoga balances the body and mind as well as stimulates the internal nerves and organs. The poses help align the body supporting optimum function and relieving stress and pain.
- It’s best to begin with an instructor-led yoga class.
- If you have a medical condition that needs special consideration before getting fit contact a yoga therapist to get started.
Remember every step, every move your make… makes a difference.
Recent research showed that adding as little as an additional hour of mild or 30 minutes of moderate exercise per week decreased triglyceride levels and increased levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. Both act as important heart health indicators.
So have fun getting fit!
Sources and Resources
Loren Fishman and Ellen Saltonstall, Yoga for Arthritis: The Complete Guide (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008).
Monda et al. “Longitudinal impact of physical activity on lipid profiles in middle-aged adults: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study,” The Journal of Lipid Research, 2009; 50 (8): 1685 DOI: 10.1194/jlr.P900029-JLR200.
Paul Lam and Judith Horstman, Overcoming Arthritis (New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2002).
Paul Scott, Outside Fitness: A Comprehensive Training & Nutrition Guide for an Active Lifestyle (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2006)