Active for Life

People of all ages, shapes, sizes and abilities can benefit from regular physical activity. As you choose to become more physically active, here are guidelines to help you succeed.

Some activity is better than none.

Start slowly. Choose activities you like to do—walk, bike, swim, exercise with a video, walk the dog, and play active games with the kids. If time is a problem, start with just 10- or 15- minute chunks of time a couple days per week. Be active during breaks. As it becomes easier, begin doing more each day.

The more you do, the greater the health benefits.

Gradually increase your activity level. As you get more fit, pick up the pace. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activity, most days of the week. For more health benefits, increase your goal gradually to 45 or 60 minutes daily.

Keep your physical activity fun.

Invite your spouse or a friend to join you. Bike or hike with a group of friends or hiking club. Join the InStep for Life program at your church or organization. If it's not started yet, get it started. Learn about it at: www.InStepForLife.com.

Add strengthening and stretching exercises.

Choose activities that work different parts of the body—legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders and arms. Exercise each muscle group eight to 12 times per session. For better muscle tone and strength aim for three of these sessions per week.

Keep written records of your progress.

Write down your exercise goal and time on a calendar, and keep track of your progress. Buy a pedometer, and aim for 8,000 to 10,000 steps daily for high fitness.

Stay safe and avoid injuries.

If you haven't been active for a while, be sure to start slowly and build up. Choose activities that are appropriate for your present fitness level and health condition. Build up your activity time daily before emphasizing more vigorous activities.

To learn more, download the new "Be Active Your Way" personal fitness guide at: http://www.health.gov/PAGuidelines/adultguide/default.aspx.

January 01, 2009 / Feature