The days are longer, nicer weather is here again and the snow is finally all melted. Excitement is in the air, yet you still can’t seem to come out from your winter fitness hiatus that seemed to linger a little too long this year. Enter Spring. A perfect time to come out of your hibernation, turn off the television and get moving. Spring is an ideal time to get back to your exercise routine.
There is very strong scientific evidence showing that physically active people have higher levels of health-related fitness, lower risk for developing a number of disabling medical conditions and lower rates of chronic disease. Exercise can also help you think more clearly, improve your mood and improve your ability to maintain your desired weight.
Did you know that exercise actually makes you younger at the cellular level? Telomeres are protective DNA and protein complexes at the end of our chromosomes and they promote stability and help control how long we live. Each time a cell in our body replicates, we lose a tiny bit of the endcaps. Telomere shortening essentially is a prognostic marker of aging, disease and premature morbidity. A 2017 study published in the medical journal Preventive Medicine demonstrated that adults who participate in high levels of physical activity tend to have significantly longer telomeres than their counterparts, accounting for up to 9 years of reduced cellular aging. To be considered highly active, women had to engage in 30 minutes of jogging per day (40 minutes for men), five days a week. This study is just one example of how regular physical activity can help to reduce mortality and prolong life.
You do NOT have to be a marathon runner to experience the benefits. Some activity, no matter how light, is always better than none! We recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity (such as brisk walking or playing tennis) or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity such as jogging or swimming laps (in bouts of any length) per week. Incorporating resistance training twice per week is also important and helps to reduce risk of injury and increase strength. If you are over the age of over the age of 65, you should also incorporate activities to improve balance and coordination at least twice per week to reduce your risk of falls.
That sounds great, but how do I get started?
- Most importantly, make it fun! The best type of exercise is one that you will do! Walking, jogging, swimming, golfing are just a few examples. You’re more likely to stick to your plan if you do something you enjoy.
- Team up! Find a friend or fitness buddy and commit to each other. You are more likely to follow through with your goals if someone is holding you accountable.
- Carve out time in your schedule. We are all busy but self-care should always be a priority. Schedule time weekly to commit to your physical activity goals. Make it just another part of your day, like showering or brushing your teeth. On days that you truly can’t find the time for scheduled activity, include small bouts of exercise. Can you take the stairs instead of the elevator? Can you take mini breaks during the day to walk around for five minutes?
- Start low and go slow: After taking the winter off, it’s important not to jump into a high intensity routine. Building up endurance is also important in avoiding injury that may set you back even further. Start by committing to two or three days per week and gradually add a few days! There will be days you give in to the call of your couch, and that is okay! Cut yourself some slack and use that time to relax and recharge.
Start moving today by writing down your goals, finding a friend, and having some fun!