By Karen Tucker
A good workout should feel hard — that’s why it’s called a workout. How often have you heard that you can get all the benefits of exercise by simply living an “active lifestyle?” Experts recommend strength-building activities two days a week, plus a minimum of 2½ hours of moderate aerobic activity or 1 hour, 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week. Numerous studies suggest that this is easy to do by simply including exercise as part of everyday activities — it’s even okay to break it up into 10 minute chunks several times a day. If this is so easy, why aren’t more Americans doing it?
Let’s look at these guidelines a bit closer. “Moderate” exercise, such as fast walking, means you’re working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. Regular activities like shopping or doing laundry don’t count because your body isn’t working hard enough to get your heart rate up. “Vigorous” exercise, such as running, means that your breathing is deep and rapid, you should sweat after a few minutes, and you shouldn’t be able to carry on a conversation.
Engaging in the recommended vigorous level of activity for at least 15 minutes every day takes more effort than just taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
Let’s say you’re in pretty good shape — you’ve been going to the gym regularly since January, you’ve dropped some weight, you’re feeling good about how you look and feel. Now it’s June. The weather is magnificent and you’ve skipped going to the gym, telling yourself that walking the dog, biking on the trail, and mowing the yard is giving you plenty of exercise. So, why not drop the gym membership for the summer and replace it with being more active outside?
First of all, be honest with yourself. When you’re doing outside types of activity, are you breathing hard and raising your heart rate? Are you doing the activity for 30 minutes? Are you even fitting in the strength training, which is so important for strong bones, reducing body fat, and burning calories more efficiently? Free weights, weight machines, or activities that use your own body weight (like push-ups) are all options; walking with 5lb weights in each hand or hauling bags of groceries don’t count.
The second thing to consider is that people who are successful at long-term fitness have developed the habit of exercise. It’s not a question of if they will or won’t work out each day; it’s just part of what they do. It’s difficult to keep or develop a fitness habit without the routine of a gym. While the weather may be wonderful right now, what about the days that it rains or it’s 95 degrees? It becomes all too easy to make excuses, and one excuse leads to another…
So, workout at a fitness facility and get it over with, then enjoy the nice weather, instead of thinking about it every day. This actually saves time because vigorous exercise gives the same health benefits in about half the time. Enjoy a walk without worrying that it’s not quite fast enough; ride bikes with the family and don’t be concerned that it wasn’t long enough; walk the dog and stop to chat with a neighbor on the way.
Doing any physical activity is certainly better than doing none, and nice weather makes this easier to do. Taking a walk is not working out; mowing grass is work, but it’s not working out.
There are many fitness facilities and fitness programs in the Bloomington-Normal Area. People often find that they stick with their exercise goals when they find a facility or class that meets their individual needs. We encourage you to explore all the options available and choose a program that works for you.