The start of the year is the perfect time to renew your gym membership and commit to making exercise a habit.
Many people use the first day of the new year to think about how they can make healthy living a priority. Physical activity is an important part of overall fitness, and early January provides a great opportunity to reassess your workout regimen.
For people who almost never exercise, adopting a consistent exercise habit may seem daunting. But if you make time in your schedule, exercise can be convenient, fun and extremely rewarding. Just remember to talk to your doctor about developing an exercise plan that suits your health needs.
Why Do I Need to Exercise?
Exercise can benefit almost everyone, even if they don't have extra pounds to lose. Staying active can prevent many chronic diseases, improve mental health and keep bodies strong as they age.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), exercising regularly reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and colon and breast cancers. Also, people who exercise tend to have stronger, healthier bones and muscles, which protects against arthritis and osteoporosis.
A regular exercise regimen may also have mental health benefits. Because your brain releases feel-good hormones called endorphins during and after a workout, exercise can improve your mood and lower your depression risk. A sweat session can also lead to better sleep.
How Much Exercise Do I Need?
The health benefits of exercise are most pronounced for people who exercise regularly, rather than sporadically. The CDC recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week — plus strength training two days per week.
Moderate-intensity exercise includes activities like brisk walking and gardening. Vigorous exercise — like jogging, cycling or hiking — requires more energy and effort.
Strength-training activities include lifting weights and other resistance exercises. It is important to include both aerobics (or "cardio") and strength training in your exercise regimen.
How Do I Stick With It?
New Year's resolutions are notoriously difficult to keep. Without a plan to stick to your exercise habit, you may find your enthusiasm waning by March. Here are some suggestions to ensure that you stay motivated:
- Find a workout partner. If you keep making excuses to avoid the gym, keep yourself accountable with a workout buddy.
- Make it a part of your schedule. Commit to specific times, days and activities. And if you plan a morning run for every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, set out your shoes, water bottle and workout clothes the night before.
- Take smaller exercise breaks. If you can't find time for a half-hour workout, exercise twice per day for 15 minutes instead.
Sometimes the hardest part of developing a new healthy habit is figuring out where to start.
For some people, the simplest option is the best one: take a walk or jog around the neighborhood. Every day, you can increase your distance or speed. Purchasing a pedometer and aiming for 10,000 steps per day may encourage you to walk more.
If you are a member of a local gym, ask about group exercise classes. These classes can be a fun option for workout novices and longtime fitness gurus alike. If you prefer more personalized instruction, you may want to sign up for a few personal trainer sessions.
Don't worry if you try an activity and don't like it. Try something new until you find a way to exercise that you enjoy. Between running, kickboxing, sports, dance classes, yoga, cycling and more, there are plenty of ways to get those 150 minutes of exercise. The most important thing is to make — and keep — a commitment to your health.