You know you need to exercise regularly but you also know you have a list of reasons why you can’t – it’s too hot, you don’t have time, you have a bad back, you are too out of shape, or too old or too heavy or. . .
Here’s a newsflash. Unless you are totally disabled, those excuses no longer hold up. Here’s why you need exercise and how you can – no matter what.
Why You Need to Start
Regular exercise is important for keeping your body functioning at its best. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that being physically active is absolutely crucial to good physical and mental health. Exercise not only can ward off obesity, but it lowers the risk of diabetes, heart disease and the other dangerous health effects of a stressful, sedentary life. Research has shown it helps soothe stress and can even relieve depression, too.
In addition, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) regular exercise and physical activity can be an effective treatment for many chronic conditions. For example, studies have found that people with arthritis, heart disease, or diabetes benefit from regular exercise. Exercise can also be used to help treat high blood pressure, balance problems or difficulty walking.
Yes, You Can Do This
Dr. Matthew Hayes, who treats patients at Duke Primary Care, a Duke School of Medicine Clinic in Cary, North Carolina, believes everyone can – and must – exercise. He’s adamant that there’s some kind of exercise out there for every body and everybody.
On his Duke web page, Dr. Hayes explains that he takes exercise so seriously that he gives each of his patients a prescription for it. “I prescribe specific ways to exercise – running, lifting, tennis, and more – based on what my patients like to do,” he says. “I make recommendations on frequency and duration of exercise based on the patient’s current fitness level. I then discuss intensity using target heart rate or how much exertion you feel.”
Dr. Hayes tells his patients that exercise is so essential that making time for exercise has to be among the things considered non-negotiable in life –like going to the grocery store even if you don’t want to when you need food or paying your bills because they are due. He says sneaking in exercise by taking the stairs or taking a walk during your lunch break is fine – as long as you do it regularly.
No matter how out of shape or overweight you are, no matter what your physical limitations are, by working with your doctor, you can find a way to exercise that will work for you. For example, swimming may be ideal if you have bad knees or arthritis. And even people confined to wheelchairs can use exercise programs to build upper body strength.
Get Ready, Get Set, and Get Going!
Your doctor has cleared you to exercise but where and how do you start? And how do you keep motivated? The NIH’s National Institute on Aging has a free, online program called Go4Life that helps you assess your fitness level, make an online plan and track your progress. There are also free exercise videos and other resources to inspire and motivate.
The NIH Go4Life guide will help you slash through your list of why-you-can’t-exercise excuses, too. You’ll find information on a host of different ways to exercise and boost overall physical activity daily, whether you’re just starting out, getting back to exercising after a break or fit enough to run a three-mile race.
The Seven Minute Way to Fitness
Home exercise equipment and gym memberships can be expensive and fighting traffic to get to a gym can be a headache. So a lack of time and money are common excuses for skipping exercise. But Brett Kilka and Chris Jordan of the Human Performance Institute have developed a high-intensity circuit training (HICT) workout regimen that can be done in seven minutes and requires only a chair and your body weight. Their paper, outlining why and how the seven-minute regimen works, was published in the May/June 2013 issue of the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal.
The modern form of HICT was first developed in 1953, and research supports the benefits of these quick, intense workouts that simply involve using your own body weight for resistance while performing quick exercises you probably already know or can easily learn from exercise videos.
Kilka and Jordan designed the following set of exercises, which work the entire body, to be completed in about seven minutes with only 10 seconds of rest between each exercise.
Each exercise should be done for about 30 seconds in the following order:
- Jumping jacks
- Wall sits
- Abdominal crunches
- Step-ups onto a chair
- Triceps dips on a chair
- High knees/running in place
- Push-ups and rotations
- Side planks
“The practicality and accessibility of HICT using body weight as resistance makes this exercise program a viable option for the masses. Individuals who previously believed that they did not have the time for exercise can now trade total exercise time for total exercise effort and get similar or better health and fitness benefits,” the paper concludes. (Remember to always consult with your doctor before beginning any new workout, especially one this intense.)