THE BLOG

Lighten Up: Step It Up!

03/26/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Hate to exercise? Ready to give up on your New Year's resolution already? Or are you having trouble even getting started? If exercise and you mix like oil and water, join the club. And with statistics like "7 out of 10 American adults don't exercise regularly despite the proven health benefits", a pretty large club it is. I know. I'm a certified member.

Despite the fact that I lost 212 pounds, I have to admit that exercise played a barely negligible part in my weight loss. On one hand, it's proof that you can lose weight even if you can't exercise. On the other hand, exercise is vitally important for so much more than just weight loss. Benefits include cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength and flexibility. When you work out aerobically, more blood is pumped through your veins which increases their size. This helps prevent fat from clogging your arteries and blood clots from forming, lowers your blood pressure, increases good cholesterol and lowers overall cholesterol. If that isn't enough, other benefits include stress relief and reduced risk of some chronic diseases including diabetes and osteoporosis. Wow! I need to get me some of that!

If you think that to receive some of these benefits you need to work out three hours a day, you're wrong. The Surgeon General recommends accumulating at least 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise -- enough to break a sweat and bring your heart rate up -- on most days of the week, most of the year. Just 30 minutes of walking five days a week can significantly improve your health. And these can be broken down into three, 10 minute sessions of walking your dog, taking the stairs, or getting off the bus a stop or two earlier. Regular aerobic exercise will give you the most respiratory and cardio benefits, but any physical activity is good. If your main interest is fat loss, then doing cardio every day with a few days of strength training thrown in works like magic. Whatever you choose, remember: the more you enjoy it, the more likely you will stick with it.

If you increase your activity by expending 200 calories more per day more than you currently do, without changing anything else in your life, you will lose 20 pounds in a year. It's simple mathematics: 3,500 calories = 1 pound of fat. On the flip side, if you are able to reduce your intake by 200 calories per day, you will see the same benefits. Imagine what would happen if you were to combine forces, cutting back a little AND increasing your activity level!

Just for fun, here are a few non-traditional activities which burn calories equivalent to low-impact aerobics:
• Gardening
• Sailing
• Hunting
• Wall papering
• Snorkeling
• Vigorous playing with your children - or someone else's

An individual weighing 155 lbs will burn 352 calories per hour performing any of the above. If none of those interest you, the same individual doing 60 minutes of heavy house cleaning will burn 317 calories. Whoo Hoo! You can burn those calories and have a clean house, too!

Whatever you choose, enjoy it ... for life!

SOURCE: www.mayoclinic.com

YOU MAY LIKE