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Increase activity, stay fit

February 06, 2001

Increase activity, stay fit



Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is as much a matter of activity as it is calorie control.

Regular activity is the edge that helps assure the 250 or so calories you're eliminating each day come off as fat. It's also the edge that helps keep the weight off once it's lost.

If this isn't enough reason to exercise, consider this: Regular physical activity helps improve your appearance by firming muscles and strengthening bones. It can also help increase your resistance to disease, give you more energy, brighten your mood and reduce your risk of heart disease.

There was a time when experts felt that to be of value, exercise needed to be vigorously aerobic for at least 20 minutes three or more days a week. While this is still a good goal, findings from three recent studies have shown that cardio-respiratory fitness gains are similar when physical activity occurs in several short sessions - such as 10 minutes - as when the same amount and intensity of activity occurs in one long session, such as 30 minutes. The recommendation for healthy adults is to include a total of at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on all, or most, days of the week.

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For many of us, regular physical activity is about time - finding time to do it. But, just like a good bargain, you can find it if you know where to look. Here are 10 ideas to help you find time during the day when you can be active.

1. Buy comfortable walking shoes. Keep a pair in your car and office. That way, when the opportunity for physical activity arises, you're ready.

2. Make physical activity part of your daily commute to work. Walk to the bus stop or park on the outside edge of the parking lot.

Your car will have fewer dings and you'll get the benefit of the walk.

3. Take the stairs, rather than the elevator. Even two flights of stairs a day can make a difference.

4. Walk down the hall instead of using the phone or e-mail to talk to your co-workers.

5. Take a walk during a morning or afternoon break. Ask a friend to go with you.

6. Choose a restaurant within walking distance for lunch, or pack a sack lunch and walk with a friend to a peaceful place to enjoy it. Or, use your lunch break to go for a quick jog or as an opportunity to work out in a nearby gym.

7. Sneak a brief walk in after work before you get home. This way you are physically active before you must tend to dinner and other evening obligations.

8. After work, play with the kids or take the dog for a walk.

9. Consider cleaning house a form of physical activity, not just a chore than must be done.

10. Incorporate physical activity into your weekend and day-off activities:

Walk up and down the sidelines at your child's baseball or soccer practices and games.

Join a weekend line dancing or ballroom dancing group.

Go to the park with your family or friends.

Wash the car by hand.

Spruce up your lawn or garden.

Start slowly and build. Too many exercise programs get put on the back burner because of injuries from doing too much too early.

Start with just one, 10-minute change in your daily routine, then add another 10-minute change when you're ready. Most of all, choose a variety of activities that you find fun. That way, you'll be more likely to make them part of your routine.

Lynn F. Little is a family and consumer sciences extension educator for Maryland Cooperative Extension, Washington County. Maryland Cooperative Extension programs are open to all citizens without regard to race, color, sex, disability, age, religion or national origin.

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