And of course, rest is different. Make sure you get 8 hours of sleep each night. But make a personal goal to move every day—more than walking from the house to the mailbox—in order to allow your body a deeper sleep at night because you have exhausted and stretched your muscles.
Keeping your body active and going, particularly if you have a sedentary job (are you reading this from your desk on your lunch break?) where you spend most of the time sitting in one spot, only getting up to use the bathroom or walk to the break room. Start getting creative and stop making excuses about why you’re not taking full advantage of your breaks and time on the weekends to keep your body moving.
We hear all about the classic reasons why someone won’t move. “I can’t afford a personal trainer” or “I don’t have time to drive to the gym.” Make use of what you have. The movement doesn’t need to be difficult or way out of your league. Find something you can do comfortably that also gives you a fair bit of challenge (to get a little bit of sweat going, or get your heart rate up a little) and that’s the sweet spot.
Here are a few tips and examples of what you can do to get active and stay that way:
1. Walking – put on some comfortable shoes, put in your earphones, and start walking at a comfortable pace. Look at the world around you, find colors and flowers and notice changes in your neighborhood. Taking a walk gives you a mental break, and gives your joints and muscles time to stretch and be used.
2. Swimming – If you have a pool, go for a swim. If not, find a gym or local YMCA with a pool available. Aim to get in a few days of swimming per week. This no-impact activity can be really helpful for building muscle and training your cardiovascular system to work more efficiently.
3. Yoga at home – If life feels too stressful at times, try yoga. Look for an online yoga course or YouTube videos, and start at the beginning. You’ll be surprised how much guided stretching can set the course for your day. Yoga has also been shown to help improve bone density in addition to its mental health benefits. (Bonus points if you have your kids or your pets join you while you stretch and breathe.)
4. Biking – Strap on a helmet and find a local bike path. If you don’t want to brave the roads, consider getting an indoor stationary bike and turning on your favorite TV show or listening to an audiobook. You might have been sitting on the couch before, but now you’re passing everyone up with your stamina and health!
5. Hiking – Getting out in nature and moving is a double-benefit. Go with a friend or your family and hike a path that’s sufficiently challenging and rewarding in terms of views and nature. Make sure you have the right shoes, too! Keep track of your favorite hikes and paths and see how they change each season.
6. Join a league – Disguising activity as fun is sometimes the most effective way to get out the door and get active. Find a soccer, basketball, disc golf or another league that piques your interest. Regularly scheduled practices and games (with teammates depending on you) help you create a habit.
Pro tip: With any physical activity, make sure you avoid reactivating any old injury and be sure to stretch before and after. If you’re not sure whether an activity is safe for your body, check in with your provider.
It all adds up: If organized activity is too structured for you, just shift into some better habits, including parking far away from your destination and walking, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking during your lunch breaks, riding your bike to work, and gardening on the weekends (you can binge your show the next day). Every little choice can add up into a habitually active life.
Make It Fun: Another excuse we hear about movement is that it might be boring. Find an audiobook to listen to only on your walks, so that you have a good reason to get out there and listen to the next chapter or two. Train your eyes to find one specific color as you quickly pace through your neighborhood. See how quickly you can get up the stairs (instead of the escalator) when you go up to the next floor. Have a dance party with your family and dance to all your favorite songs. Staying active doesn’t just have to be for yourself—share the love!
Find a Buddy: Speaking of group activities—accountability can be a big factor in staying active. Find a colleague at work to walk with during your lunch break, or go for an evening bike ride with your roommate or significant other. Making time for these opportunities can be helpful for both your relationships and your body.
Movement is also good for your mental health to get outside and into nature. Exercise boosts endorphins for a mood boost and it gives you energy. It oxygenates your muscles (for better cardiovascular health) and helps your body maintain strong bones. With inactivity, pain can worsen. With regular exercise, your pain can be reduced! You’ll also enjoy better sleep and better energy levels in general.