Still not convinced how important exercise is for everyone—including you?
If so, take this chance to read about two recently published reports that stress the value of exercise in preventing significant health risks. The first study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, followed 73,000 postmenopausal women for an average of 3.2 years. In this study, JoAnn E. Manson, M.D, Dr.P.H., of the division of preventive medicine at Harvard University, and colleagues found that women who either walked briskly or exercised vigorously at least two and a half hours per week had a 30 percent lower risk of heart-related problems such as heart attack, stroke, the need for heart bypass surgery, heart failure or death than the least active women.1
The second study, which followed a group of young girls through adolescence to their later teenage years, found that the level of physical activity declined precipitously over time, so that by the age of 18 or 19, up to 56 percent of the girls reported no regular physical activity. Not surprisingly, a significant number of girls were overweight.2 Together, the message from these studies is pretty powerful: Exercise is important—and as a nation, we’re not getting it done.
How Much Is Enough?
The answer to this question is a bit less well defined. In its most recent report, the National Academy of Sciences recommends one hour a day. Sounds like a lot for most people busy with jobs, families and commutes. So let’s get back to the first study: How about two and a half hours each week to lower your risk of heart-related problems. If you don't think you can do that, try harder to figure out how you can —or at least be a bit more creative. To help you out, here are 10 tricks to work in workouts, which can help you manage your time.
1. Ride, run or walk to work. If you have a shower at work, this is a great way to start the day and make the most of your time.
2. Work out at lunchtime. A midday exercise will help break up the day, boost energy ,and will allow you to make the most of your afternoon.
3. Exercise in front of the television. This way you are less likely to put off a workout so that you can watch your favorite show. Watching the tube can become a reason to work out, rather than a deterrent.
4. Exercise with friends or coworkers. If you use your exercise time as a way to socialize, you can accomplish two goals at once. Group workouts are also a great way to meet new people with a shared interest, so check out local running clubs, spinning classes or aerobic studios for times that fit your schedule.
5. Get up early. Morning is your friend. With practice, predawn workouts can become found hours.
6. Exercise at home. It’s tough to be away from the house and family for long periods of time. Running on a treadmill in the basement is a great way to fit in a run and at the same time be part of the household. Warning: Your dog may get jealous if you start substituting treadmill workouts for an outdoor run with them.
7. Make a plan. Following a schedule is a powerful tool in the battle to stay on target. Look at the week in advance and pick your time slots carefully. Remember that it is always safer to start the day with your workout than to plan on getting to it later: Distractions are less likely to come up unexpectedly first thing in the morning than later in the day.
8. Make a date. If you plan to exercise in the morning, try the buddy system. There are few things more powerful than guilt to help motivate you to get out of bed in the early hours. If you commit to meeting someone for an early workout, chances are, you will show up—at least after the first time you sleep in and your buddy plays up the guilt factor.
9. Exercise before you go home. If there is a way to work out before getting stuck in the evening commute, you can avoid wasting time in traffic along with the pitfalls of procrastination.
10. Remember that time with family and friends is priceless; the benefits of exercise do not outweigh the importance of experiencing what is most valuable in life.
When it comes down to making exercise fit into your life, use these tricks to maximize your time with the people that matter most. It is all about balance, being your best while at the same time realizing for whom you are doing this. Get in shape so that you can enjoy your family and friends, so you can live longer and healthier and share more time with them, not less.