Get Moving!

Janis Hunter
Home & Garden Information Center

With the arrival of Spring comes warmer weather and longer days. This is an opportune time for you and your family to get outside and become more physically active.

Physical activity simply means moving your body to use energy. The activity doesn’t have to be strenuous, but it should be interesting and enjoyable so that you will continue it. Walking, bicycling, playing ball, skating, jumping rope and even gardening and yard work are great ways to get moving. If you have been a couch potato all winter, start out slowly and gradually build to higher levels of activity to reduce your risk of injury.

Make physical activity a regular part of your family’s daily routine, and set a positive example for your child by being physically active yourself. On most days adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity above and beyond their job, unless it includes lots of vigorous physical activity. When you don’t have time for the full 30 minutes of physical activity, divide the time into 10- or 15-minute sessions throughout the day. Include a good balance of activities that stretch, strengthen, and give the heart and lungs an aerobic workout.

You can usually achieve greater health benefits by exercising more vigorously or for more than 30 minutes. Vigorous activities are those that increase your heart rate, such as running (5 miles per hour), fast walking (4½ miles per hour), bicycling (more than 10 miles per hour), aerobics, swimming (freestyle laps), competitive basketball and heavy yard work (chopping wood).

Adding physical activity to your day can:

  • burn calories to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • lower your risk for chronic disease, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and colon cancer.
  • control blood pressure.
  • lower your risk for a heart attack.
  • help you feel good about yourself.
  • reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
  • improve your fitness level.
  • increase your muscle strength.
  • reduce body fat.
  • build and maintain bones and joints.
  • improve flexibility and posture.
  • prevent arthritis or relieve the pain.
  • reduce the risk of falling if you are an older adult.

To manage your weight, find a balance between the food you eat and your level of physical activity. The best and safest way to shed pounds and improve your health is to eat a balanced diet, modestly cut calories and be physically active every day. You can prevent weight gain if you get 60 minutes of exercise on most days and don’t increase calories consumed. However, you may need to increase your level of physical activity to 60 to 90 minutes a day if you have lost weight and want to maintain the weight loss.

Children and teens need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day, or on most days. If kids also eat a nutritionally balanced diet, this level of physical activity can help them stay at a healthy weight and can prevent gradual weight gain over time. Inactivity, plus snacking on high calorie foods, has led to an epidemic of childhood obesity.

Here are some ideas for including physical activities in your daily routine so you don’t have to go to the gym or an aerobics class.

  • Always be prepared. Keep a pair of walking or running shoes and some comfortable clothes in the car and at the office. Park in the farthest parking spot and walk to the office or to the store when running errands. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Make physical activity a social event. Develop a group of supportive co-workers, friends or family members who will help you stay motivated. Walk during your lunch break at work or around your neighborhood.
  • Incorporate physical activity into your work day. Do simple stretching and calisthenics exercises at your desk. While you talk on the phone, lift weights or walk around.
  • Do your own household chores. Vacuuming, mopping and dusting can be quite a workout! Mow the lawn with a push mower, garden, rake leaves or wash and wax your car.
  • Instead of sitting through TV commercials, get up and move. And, remember to limit TV watching and computer time.
  • Go on family outings. Get outdoors and ride bikes, skate, hike, swim, go canoeing, sailing or horseback riding together.

For related information, refer to HGIC 4030, Physical Activity Pyramid, HGIC 4031, Physical Activity for Adults and HGIC 4032, Physical Activity for Children.

Starting today, make one positive change. Then keep it up and stay active throughout your life!

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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.