Exercise Your Way to Better Health

Work out combined with healthy eating habits is the best way to control weight. Studies show that being overweight or obese is a leading cause of illnesses such as type II diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Being active helps control weight by using extra calories that would have been stored as fat. Also, people who are active tend to have more energy. Even just a little, regular exercise such as walking can have many health benefits that include:
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Higher HDL (good) blood cholesterol
  • Stronger heart muscle
  • Improved lung capacity
  • Improved blood flow
  • More positive with life
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Improved muscle strength
  • Improved sense of well-being

How Do I Get Started?

One of the biggest problems most of us face when beginning an exercise program is… getting started! Before you start any exercise program, talk with your doctor, especially if you have not been active for many years. If you are diabetic or have high blood pressure, be sure to see your doctor before you begin or change an exercise routine. Once you decide to begin an exercise program, start slowly. Begin by doing something you enjoy. Exercise does not have to be hard or boring to be good for you. Anything that gets you up and moving around on a regular basis is always a good start. You can do the following:

  • Take a short easy walk around the block
  • Park further away from stores when you shop and walk
  • Walk up stairs
  • Do some yard work
  • Put on some music and dance
  • Go swimming
  • Exercise with a friend


How Much Should I Exercise?

Decide the type of exercise you will do. Then, plan how much time and how often you will do it. Some health experts say that we should do 60 minutes of vigorous activity three to four times a week. Plus they say to do some strengthening and stretching activity twice a week. If you have been inactive for a while, you may want to begin by doing only ten minutes here and there during the day. Once you are in better shape, slowly increase your workout to 60 minutes a day. Remember start slow and an easy, then increase the time and strength. You will become healthier without hurting your body.


Some Exercise Tips:

  • Wait two hours after you eat before you work out.
  • Always warm-up before you start.
  • Cool-down after by doing some stretching.
  • Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothes.
  • Drink water before, during, and after a work out. This replaces the water lost as you sweat.
  • Avoid sweet drinks, coffee, tea and soft drinks before you exercise.
  • Avoid outdoor activity in bad weather.
  • Don't over exert yourself.
  • Check with a doctor right away if you have chest pain, or shortness of breath.
  • Any amount of exercise is better than none.


What Type of Exercise is Best?

You want to feel good about any activity you start to do. Find an activity that fits into your lifestyle. Any exercise you choose to do will improve your overall quality of life. Keep a record of your activities to check on your progress.

Make physical activity a part of your daily routine. Here are some other exercise ideas:

  • Bicycle
  • Use a treadmill or stationary bike
  • Ice skate
  • Roller skate
  • Row in place
  • Tennis
  • Brisk walk
  • Jog
  • Lift weights


Appreciate Yourself!

Regular exercise can help improve your self-image. It boosts your mood and gives you more self-confidence. Anything that gets you moving around for even a few minutes a day is a healthy start. The more you exercise, the easier it becomes, but you have to start somewhere. Remember:

  • Start slowly.
  • Set goals.
  • Do something you enjoy.
  • Fit exercise into your daily routine.
  • Keep track of your progress.
  • Don't give up.

Written by Lynnette Mensah, Nutrition and Wellness Educator, University of Illinois Extension, Chicago.

Sources: The Weight-control Information Network (WIN) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK), "Physical Activity and Weight Control." North Central Regional Extension Publication 453," Exercise for Health.”

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