You’ve heard the joke about people whose treadmills serve as expensive hangers for their clothes. Well, I have an entire room full of exercise equipment that might as well be serving as clothes hangers. And, that’s no joke.
The reality is that I have no excuse for missing out on fitness. Yet, I manage to come up with a variety of excuses when it comes to not exercising.
I recently asked Jennifer McCabe Lentz, MD, a family medicine physician at the Banner Health Center in southwest Loveland, Colorado, what advice she would offer those who say they have no time to exercise.
“Working out doesn’t have to be formal or in a gym,” she explained. “Even five to 10 minutes of activity can make a difference!”
Dr. Lentz said wearing a pedometer (or any other tracking device) and aiming for 10,000 steps each day is a great way to become more active.
“I always start with the recommendation of, ‘Try for 500 more steps tomorrow than today,’ ” she said.
Turning on your favorite tunes and dancing to three or four songs in the evening is another way to fit activity into your schedule, while having fun doing it, she adds.
“Doing squats while brushing teeth, walking up and down the stairs five to 10 times, doing push-ups and learning a few yoga moves at night before bed can also keep someone more active and fit,” Dr. Lentz added.
I must admit the strategy of at least initially splitting activities into smaller segments makes the thought of daily fitness less overwhelming and more doable.
“I recommend doing something active daily with more strenuous activities three to four times per week for at least 30 minutes each time,” Dr. Lentz explained. “But, something shorter is better than nothing, so breaking it up into five- to 10-minute spurts and getting it in when able is a good way to do it as well.”
Why is it so important to get regular activity, especially for those of us a certain age?
“Move it or lose it!” Dr. Lentz said emphatically. “It is very important to get moving in order to keep moving into your later years.”
Daily weight-bearing activity and/or strength training, for example, help maintain good bone density, she explains. For a reminder on why bone health is so important, take a look back at this blog from last year.
In addition, Dr. Lentz said, “stretching is important for flexibility and balance (to avoid falls), and cardiovascular exercise is also important for having good stamina with activity and good heart health.”
As we age, we need to be especially careful about how hard we work our bodies.
“If you have been doing high-impact exercise, it is OK to continue these as tolerated,” Dr. Lentz said. “However, to protect your joints, sticking with lower-impact exercise is a good choice.”
Lower impact activities include:
- Swimming and other water activities (such as water walking and aerobics)
“Yoga is great for strength, balance and flexibility,” Dr. Lentz adds, “and there are so many different levels of yoga. For those with chronic back pain issues, Tai Chi can also help balance and not be as strenuous as yoga.”
For those new to regular exercise, Dr. Lentz recommends walking to start. She also suggests those who want more structure or formal programs may want to try a fitness club or organization that offers varied activities at different levels.
“I also recommend looking into hiring a personal trainer, which can be surprisingly affordable, or finding an exercise buddy to help keep up motivation,” she said.
Hey, my husband is my exercise buddy. This might be a perfect evening to grab our bikes out of the garage and go for a nice ride in the neighborhood. That’s a much better use for them than serving as hangers for those old tarps we just haven’t found time to put away.