Tips for a Safe and Healthy Active Lifestyle

To make the most of your exercise habits, know how much and what kind of activity will yield the greatest benefit.

There’s no question: exercise and an active lifestyle have huge health benefits. Regular physical activity can help us to maintain a healthy weight, ward off diseases like heart disease and diabetes, and benefit our bones and joints.

Exercise combats osteoporosis—the loss of bone over time. When we work to maintain strength and balance as we age, we lessen the risk of falls that can lead to serious injury. Earlier this year, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons issued a 1200-page report evaluating the most effective treatments for knee osteoarthritis—the joint inflammation and wear and tear that many of us develop with age. At the top of the Academy’s list of recommended treatments: exercise.

But not all exercise is created equal. Some high-impact or repetitive motion sports can actually cause stress and injury. What kinds of exercise are most beneficial, and how much exercise do we need to do to reap benefits safely?

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans explain that we need to do two types of exercise every week: aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening exercises. The guidelines recommend 30 minutes of exercise daily for adults between the ages of 18 and 64. You don’t have to exercise in one 30-minute chunk of time. It’s fine to spread your activity out through the day, as long as you maximize your health benefits by maintaining activity for at least 10 minutes at a time.

Moderate aerobic activities that raise your heart rate include:

  • biking
  • canoeing
  • ballroom dancing
  • gardening
  • brisk walking
  • water aerobics

If you can talk, but can’t sing the words to your favorite song, you are exercising at a moderate level. Spend two days—or one hour per week—on strength exercises like weight lifting, working with resistance bands, or yoga, and you are on your way to a healthier you. When you add even more exercise to your weekly routine, your health benefits only increase.

Recently, studies are suggesting activity may not be enough—it’s also important not to spend too much time in sedentary activities like watching television, riding in a car, or sitting in front of a computer. Your best bet is to make time for exercise every day, while cutting down on prolonged periods of sitting. Try watching your favorite show from the treadmill, or while doing strength-building or balancing exercises.  Purchase a devise for your computer that allows you to convert it to a standing position easily.

Regular activity isn’t just good for your health; it’s good for your mood and sense of well-being. Small changes can add up to big benefits, so take a quick walk to break up your workday. Climb the stairs instead of riding the elevator. Park further away from the entrance to the grocery store or your office building, and know that the extra steps you take today are an investment in better health tomorrow.

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