Peter Brubaker, professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest University, stressed that regular daily exercise is the most important step toward a healthier lifestyle.
“People don’t realize you can get tremendous benefit from regular physical activity even if you never lose a pound,” he says. These benefits include a reduced risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, bone and joint conditions and sleep apnea.
Brubaker, who is the director of the healthy exercise and lifestyle programs (HELPS) at Wake Forest, offered the following tips to increase daily physical activity:
- Set a goal of 30 minutes a day of physical activity. It doesn’t need to be all at once. Five minutes here, 10 minutes there is fine. As long as it is done at moderate intensity, you will get sufficient health benefits.
- Walk. For most people, the easiest and most efficient activity is simply walking.
- Wear a pedometer. Recent studies have shown that people wearing pedometers increase their activity level by 25 percent.
- Build activity into your daily routine. Get up from your desk to deliver a message. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Add some extra steps when you are doing household chores. Find small ways to get moving.
- Record daily physical activity in a journal. Self-monitoring is important when making a lifestyle change and journaling activity levels can be good reinforcement.
- Don’t worry so much about weight loss. Realize if you are regularly active you can get significant health benefits even if you never lose a pound. People serious about weight loss should build in 60 minutes per day of physical activity.
- Find activities you enjoy and feel good about doing. Try a variety of activities. Variety is good for the body – and the mind.
- Get the support of friends and family. Challenge them to add 30 minutes of physical activity to their daily routine and you can hold each other accountable.
Finally, the biggest obstacle to successful lifestyle change is expectation. People are unrealistic about what they can achieve and how quickly they can achieve it. Therefore, don’t stress if you didn’t start working out on Jan. 1. Set realistic expectations and recognize that any time is a good time to make a commitment to change your lifestyle.