January 23, 2009

Five Steps to Becoming Physically Active

By Felice Chavez

The first step to becoming physically active is to find a physical activity that you will enjoy. Choose a physical activity that meets your skill level - walking, jogging, or climbing stairs are examples of activities that do not require new skills. Doing more of them will have an amazing impact on your health! If you do not like the first physical activity you try, then just try another one.

Second, make sure to plan ahead. Identify community programs that offer free or low cost physical activity resources. If you are not able to attend a class, find a safe and convenient place in your neighborhood where you can start doing physical activity. Mark your calendar with the time you will be doing physical activity. It is important to start slowly and work your way up in terms of time and intensity. Set goals, such as increasing time or distance, so you can see your improvement. Keep track of your levels of exercise and your goals using an exercise journal or calendar. When you reach a physical activity goal, reward yourself with something you enjoy, such as a new CD, outfit, or book.

Third, find time in your schedule to be active on a daily (or every other day) basis. Find open time slots in your day when you can commit to doing at least 30 minutes of physical activity. You can add physical activity into your schedule by reducing sitting or screen time. For example, instead of watching television after dinner, go for a family walk. Also, try adding more steps during your day, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or choosing a parking spot that is far away from your destination.

Fourth, find support for keeping yourself physically active. Involve family, friends, and even pets in your exercise activities. You can start walking or attending a health class with a family member or friend. Having someone to do physical activity with will help you meet your physical activity goals. Involve your children when doing physical activity so your whole family can get the health benefits.

Fifth, don’t forget to warm up before you participate in physical activity. A warm up should start slowly and then gradually increase your heart rate. For example, a warm up for jogging would be a brisk walk. After your warm up you should stretch, starting with the larger muscles. If you are doing a specific physical activity, warm up the muscles that you will be using in that activity. After exercising, you need to cool down by slowing down your heart rate along with light stretching. If you have a chronic health condition, you should consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program. And remember to drink plenty of water to remain hydrated.

Keeping yourself physically active is key to living a healthy lifestyle. Starting a physical activity routine may seem difficult at first. But once you start, you will thank yourself the rest of your life!

This message is brought to you by the SDPRC Familias Sanas y Activas program. For more information on our free physical activity programs in South Bay, please contact Sara Solaimani at 619-594-2965.

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