The best exercise is the one that you’ll do

By now we know that the key to maintaining a healthy weight is to burn more calories than we consume. Seems simple enough, but for some of us it remains an elusive goal.

Even if you’ve successfully lost weight, you’ve probably discovered that the easy part (or the not-so-hard part) is losing the weight; the really hard part is keeping it off. Exercise plays a crucial role in keeping the weight off and improving your overall health.

What if you exercised for the health benefits, without worrying about weight loss? How would that change your attitude about exercise?

Most of us listen to our doctor’s recommendations regarding exercise when there’s a major health issue. The rest of the time we tend to lapse into old patterns or get so busy that we neglect our well-being. But what if I told you that any exercise that you start is good exercise – because it’s a step in the right direction?

After consulting with your doctor, consider a simple cardiovascular exercise routine that engages you in brisk walking, aerobic exercise, swimming, or even dancing. The key is to find something you like doing and to remove obstacles to help you stick with it.

Cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise strengthens your heart muscle, moves more air through your lungs, sends more oxygen into your bloodstream and working muscles, and helps lower your blood pressure, regulate your blood sugar, and improve your cholesterol. Inactivity causes the same decrease in physical fitness that aging causes. Moving more will keep you feeling (and looking) younger.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Look at nutrition and exercise as part of the same equation. Calories you eat = calories you need to burn and then some. A long exercise session is not an excuse to eat more than you planned. Pace yourself during your exercise session, so you don’t feel weak or overly hungry.
  • Ask for help developing a cardio workout that has some variation and some intervals of moderate to intense exercise. This will keep you from getting bored and will provide an opportunity to build up your cardiovascular strength.
  • Carve out time throughout your day to move more. You don’t have to commit to 90 minutes at a time. You can break up your physically activity and keep yourself active throughout the day.
  • Maybe you like the adrenaline of sprinting, or prefer doing squats or burpees. Maybe you just like to walk outside. Whatever keeps you coming back will keep you active and will encourage your body to try new forms of exercise. Whatever “it” is, keep doing it.
  • Talk with your primary care physician about what’s right for you. Consider your medical history and your day to day challenges. Ask about any symptoms that could be red flags.

Try something new or reclaim something you haven’t done in a long time. Have fun with it. Tell your friends. Sharing how you feel about physical activity with others will encourage them, and also keep you motivated.

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Sheena Anderson, DO, is a family physician with Baptist Health and a believer in getting to know each patient to facilitate high-quality, individualized care. She focuses on prevention, nutrition, women’s health, and management of high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes.  Read her bio.

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