It may help to realize where regular physical activity can take you. In terms of health alone, the benefits can be tremendous. For example, a study published just this summer showed that regular modest exercise combined with a loss of less than 10 pounds reduced risk of adult onset diabetes among overweight and obese women and men. But perhaps more encouraging is the fact that whether you lose weight or not, physical activity by itself offers real benefits that can mean a happier, healthier life.
Moderate exercise alone can help reduce percentage of body fat and blood cholesterol levels in women and men.
Physical activity (predominately walking) as part of your daily routine can be as effective as structured exercise in reducing body fat and heart disease risk, especially over the long term (24 months).
Getting and Staying Started
So how do you conquer the all-too-common tendency to procrastinate when it comes to physical activity? First, you need to be realistic. Many women who come to Green Mountain have unrealistic expectations about what they need to do to reap the benefits of regular exercise. They believe they need to spend inordinate amounts of time at it every day – time that they often don’t have.
What is a realistic expectation? Just resolve to increase your walking. It doesn’t take special equipment or joining a club; it just takes a little imagination. The motivation comes when you find it’s not so hard, it feels great, and can even be fun!
Try setting a goal of 10,000 steps a day. The 10,000 Steps programsm, a recent research project of the National Weight Registry, showed where 10,000 steps a day can take you in just 8 weeks. Over 90% of the participants cited feeling better mentally and physically, having more energy, and being more ready to engage in physical activity. Our experience at Green Mountain shows results like these are a critical “first step” in adopting a balanced lifestyle that helps you better manage your weight.
Many of those who took part in the 10,000 Steps programsm said the pedometer was the one thing that helped them most when it came to increasing their activity. It will quickly give you an idea of your baseline – where you are starting from – and is a great feedback tool for monitoring progress. And setting measurable goals like 10,000 steps and seeing your progress is a great motivator.
Adding Them Up
If 10,000 steps sounds like a lot, it might help to know that the average person walks about 3,000 to 5,000 steps a day already. To double that really doesn’t take much. Start gradually, adding a few steps a day. You can do it with just a few changes in your routines. Park your car farther away from the door at the shopping center or at your office.
It’s amazing how quickly steps add up just going through your daily routine at home or office. But a good brisk walk several times a week at the least will help you feel better physically and mentally. If you have a dog, take her on a daily walk; Fido will get so used to it, pretty soon she will be taking you. (Dogs definitely get attached to their daily walks and can be very persistent in urging you out the door.) Or call up a friend — maybe she would like to start walking, too. You and your friend can take turns “playing dog” – that is, being the one to get you both out the door.
Doing It Right
To get the most out of your walk, try these tips:
- Keep your head and chin up, bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle and swing your arms.
- Lengthen your stride.
- Stretch after you have warmed up for 5 to 10 minutes or so. Stretch the calf, quadriceps and hamstring muscles of each leg. Do static stretches – hold them for 10 to 30 seconds without bouncing — 3 to 5 times each. Repeat the stretches after you finish walking, too.
The Green Mountain Experience
Walking has formed the basis of the physical activity program at Green Mountain at Fox Run since the program was founded in 1973. Over the years, we have seen thousands of women reach their health and weight goals using our approach of sensible eating combined with regular, yet reasonable physical activity.
A study conducted of Green Mountain participants five years after they had taken part in our program showed physical activity was the greatest predictor of whether they continued to lose weight and keep it off after returning home. And walking was the physical activity most of them chose regularly.