What Can Physical Activity Do for Me?
- Helps lower your blood glucose, blood pressure, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides
- Lowers your risk for prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke
- Relieves stress
- Strengthens your heart, muscles and bones
- Improves your blood circulation and tones your muscles
- Keeps your body and your joints flexible
Even if you've never exercised before, you can find ways to add physical activity to your day. Even if your activities aren't strenuous, you'll still get health benefits. Once physical activity is a part of your routine, you'll wonder how you managed without it.
What Kinds of Physical Activity are Best?
A complete physical activity routine includes four kinds of activities:
- Continuous activity—walking, using the stairs, moving around—throughout the day
- Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, or dancing
- Strength training, like lifting light weights
- Flexibility exercises, such as stretching
Being Active Throughout the Day
Reducing the amount of time spent sitting or being still is important for everyone. Set your alarm to get up and stretch or walk around the house or office at least every 30 minutes throughout the day.
Aerobic exercise makes your heart and bones strong, relieves stress and improves blood circulation. It also lowers your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke by keeping your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels on target. Aim for about 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week. If you haven't been very active recently, start out with 5 or 10 minutes a day. Then work up to more time each week. Or split up your activity for the day—try a brisk 10-minute walk three times each day.
Here are some ways to get aerobic exercise:
- Take a brisk walk every day
- Go dancing or take a dance aerobics class
- Swim or do water aerobics
- Take a bicycle ride outdoors or use a stationary bicycle indoors
Strength training helps build strong bones and muscles and makes everyday chores like carrying groceries easier. With more muscle, you burn more calories, even at rest.
Do your strength routine several times a week. Here are some ways to do strength training:
- Lift light weights at home
- Join a class that uses weights, elastic bands and/or plastic tubes
- When you travel, make time to use the hotel fitness center. Or bring lightweight, easy-to-pack resistance bands with you
Flexibility exercises, also called stretching, help keep your joints limber and lower your chances of getting hurt. Gentle stretching for 5 to 10 minutes helps your body warm up and get ready for activities and cool down afterwards.
How to Get Started
Choose one or two things you'd like to try to get started. Then set a realistic, achievable plan to make it happen. Learn more about setting realistic, achievable goals below.
Keep a Record of Your Progress
Keep track of your activity. You might find that writing everything down helps keep you on target. Think about what works best for you. You might try a notebook, calendar, spreadsheet, cell phone or online activity tracker to log and record your progress.
How a Support System can Help
It may be helpful to meet on a regular basis with others who are also trying to be active. Think about joining a group for exercise or general support, or find a walking buddy. Then work together to reach your goals.