When you start trying to lose weight, you’re probably going to hear and say the phrase “be more active” a lot. Exercising and living a more active lifestyle certainly are important parts of the process of losing weight and keeping it off permanently. Unless you’re an athlete or are already committed to frequent exercise, odds are good you could benefit from being more active even if you’re not actively trying to lose weight. Research shows that living an active lifestyle – whether to lose weight or for its own sake – can have numerous health benefits. In addition to helping you lose weight and keep it off, being active can help you feel better, be more physically fit, improve blood sugar control, fight depression and improve mood, lower your blood pressure, lower your risk for heart disease, and even lower your risk for certain types of cancer. It also raises the amount of good cholesterol, or HDL, in your blood and lowers triglycerides. The benefits are far-reaching, but obtaining them does require taking that first step toward increased physical activity.
Blount Memorial registered dietitian Chelsi Cardoso says when you’re ready to start being more active, you’ll want to start the right way. “The two key types of exercise to look at are aerobic training and resistance training, both of which can be helpful for improving blood glucose management, losing weight and becoming healthier overall,” she said. “When you’re doing aerobic or cardio exercises, you want to keep the ‘F.I.T.T’ principles in mind. First is ‘frequency.’ You want to be active at least five days a week, which you can build up to if you’re just starting out. Next is ‘intensity.’ You want to work hard enough to get your heart pumping, but not too hard. Try to keep your pace near that of a brisk walk, especially when you’re just starting a new routine. Listen to your body. If you notice you’re having trouble breathing, it’s time to slow down. The third principle is ‘time.’ You want to stay active for at least 10 minutes without a break, and gradually increase that amount of time. Set incremental goals for yourself of adding a few minutes each week to your daily routine. The final element of the ‘F.I.T.T.’ system is ‘type of activity.’ You want to focus on activities that make your heart work, such as brisk walking or riding a bike, and use the large muscle groups in your legs and arms,” she explained. “Again, you want to do this for at least 10 minutes, then gradually ramp up as you’re comfortable,” she added.
As for resistance, or strength, training, Cardoso says it’s never too late to start. “As you age, strength training can help you continue doing everyday activities such as walking, lifting things and climbing stairs,” she said. “You don’t have to run right out and join a gym, either. You can use handheld weights, resistance bands or even your own body weight to help build muscle. When starting this, you again want to focus on major muscle groups, including your lower body, upper body and core. When you choose an exercise, whether it’s pushups or resistance bands, try to do two or three sets per activity with 10-15 repetitions. Focus on using slow, controlled movements. For instance, count for three seconds down and three seconds up to help control your movement. Be sure to extend your limbs and use the full range of motion. Controlling your breathing is important, too, so remember to exhale throughout your exercise,” she said.
“Most people say they would be more active if they could find the time,” Cardoso said. “The trick is that we all can find the time. Start by setting aside a block of time five days a week to be active. Do something you like, whether it’s lifting weights with a friend or getting up early to walk the dog. Also, most of us could find time during our regular day. If you find you have 10 free minutes here or there, whether during your lunch break or before a meeting, try taking a quick walk. Try parking further away from your office or the grocery store. Anything you can do to get in a little extra will help you,” she said. “The secret to starting out is to make being more active a part of your daily routine and hold yourself accountable for doing so,” she added.