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Your 2024-2025 Benefits Guide

Get Up, Get Out, Get Fit

Getting Started with Physical Activity

Getting Started with Physical Activity

Interested in becoming more active? Being physically active is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. The key is getting started on the right foot—find activities you enjoy and increase activity levels gradually and safely. Your body is built to move and an active lifestyle should feel good. In this article you will learn how to create a personal, workable physical activity plan.

Physical Activity: What’s in it for Me?

Some of the most common reasons people decide to become more active include:

  • Losing weight or preventing weight gain
  • Improving blood cholesterol levels
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Lowering chance of heart attack and stroke
  • Helping insulin work better in the body and preventing type 2 diabetes
  • Having more energy
  • Relieving stress
  • Improving self-esteem
  • Sleeping better
  • Keeping bones strong
  • Helping relieve depression and anxiety
  • Feeling and looking healthy and fit

Physical Activity Guidelines

To promote and maintain health, the U.S. Department of Health and Human services encourages all healthy adults to accumulate at least:

  • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio (aerobic) physical activity each week, or
  • 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio (aerobic) physical activity each week, or
  • An equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity cardio (aerobic) physical activity.

There are many ways you can “mix and match” your activity to meet the guidelines. A typical option is to do 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking, five days a week. Another option is to go for a 50-minute brisk walk three days a week. With either option, at the end of the week you will have accumulated 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity. It’s best to spread your activity throughout the week. In other words, don’t plan to do all your minutes on one day and then be inactive the other six days of the week.

As long as you do activities for at least 10 minutes at a time, you can accumulate your time over multiple sessions in a day. For example, you can squeeze in a brisk 10-minute walk at lunchtime, in the late afternoon and then again in the evening.

Choosing a Time

One way to make regular physical activity a reality in your life is by choosing a time and sticking to it. Schedule your activity time by writing “exercise” or your planned “activity” on your calendar. Consider what times are possible for you and which time is likely to work best. The best time is one when you’ll feel up to being active and have a low likelihood of something else coming up that gets in your way.

A Little Help from your Friends

Most active people find it helpful to have the support of family or friends. Some people like to be active with another person. For others, the critical factor is having someone take care of another responsibility while they do their activity. Still others might find the daily question “Did you do your activity today?” to be most helpful.

Warming Up and Cooling Down

Once you begin, don’t forget to warm up and cool down your body before and after activity. The simplest way to warm up is to do your activity at a low intensity for at least the first five to 10 minutes of your session and gradually increase to your target intensity. Cooling down is just the opposite—you gradually reduce your intensity level during the last five to 10 minutes of your session.

Now it’s Your Turn

Getting started with physical activity doesn’t have to be strenuous to provide benefits. And it’s never too late to start. If you are currently inactive, don’t expect to reach the physical activity guidelines in the first week. Start gradually. Set realistic goals so you experience the sweet taste of success!