Easy Exercises For Couch Potatoes
Anyone can improve their heart health and enjoy other exercise benefits — even if you spend most of your time on the couch. Get tips to help fitness newbies start exercising.
Convincing yourself it’s time to start exercising should be easy — given that there are many benefits to exercising. But finding an exercise routine that works for you — and beginning it the right way — that can be difficult.
If you try to jump from no exercise to running a mile or two, you’ll likely wind up so sore and exhausted that you give up again. It’s perfectly fine to start slowly with easy exercises — you’ll still get exercise benefits and improve your heart health.
“Recognize that small changes over time can yield big results,” says personal trainer Alice Burron, MS, spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise and author ofFour Weeks to Fabulous. Starting out slowly also enables your body to get used to more physical activity and reduces the risk of injury, she adds.
To start making a difference in your heart health and get the most exercise benefits, put a plan in place and have specific goals in mind. “You will see that, with a gradual start and the right mindset, a fitness routine can significantly improve your cardiovascular health within three months,” says Jonathan H. Whiteson, MD, medical director of the cardiac and pulmonary wellness and rehabilitation program at the New York University Langone Medical Center.
Let’s Start Exercising: First Steps
You don’t need to push yourself to the limit on your first day. “Remind yourself that fitness starts with just doing more today than you did yesterday,” says Dr. Whiteson. “So for the couch potato, even spending 30 minutes doing something active instead of sitting down is the beginning of a fitness program.”
To figure out how much you’re currently moving, pick up an inexpensive pedometer. “Using a pedometer is one of the best ways to start increasing activity,” Burron says. Record your steps for about three days to get an average. Then use that number to set a goal, increasing your steps by 20 percent every day to eventually reach 10,000 steps per day.
“Walking is just one of many choices to get active,” says Burron. “However, it is often a good way to get back into fitness if you’ve strayed.” It’s easy exercise, convenient, and enjoyable.
Don’t force yourself to run every day if you hate running, and don’t spend hours cursing the elliptical machine or stationary bike at the gym if those workouts don’t appeal to you. “Finding an exercise that you enjoy is a part of a strategy to change lifestyle behavior and stay active throughout your life,” says Burron. “The type of exercise you choose truly affects your motivation to get moving.” Maybe it’s a yoga class some days and tennis or hiking with a buddy on others. Doing a variety of exercises will help keep your workouts fresh and keep you interested.
Easy Exercises at Home and Work
With a hectic work schedule followed by demands at home, it may be hard to squeeze in a trip to the gym. The good news is you may not have to go anywhere to get a good workout. “Any kind of movement can be considered activity and will burn calories,” says Burron.
Try these ways to incorporate easy exercises into your day:
- Park in the back of the parking lot so that you have to walk a little farther to your destination. For an added workout, carry your groceries instead of pushing them in a cart.
- Give your house a really good cleaning. To burn even more calories, sing and dance while you work.
- When you have a choice, use stairs instead of an escalator or elevator. Try to climb stairs quickly instead of taking your time.
- When feasible, walk instead of driving, taking a train, or riding the bus.
- Getting antsy in your chair at work? Fidgeting is fine — and burns calories.
- Use an exercise ball instead of a chair. It forces you to continually contract your core muscles in the abdomen and back to stay balanced.
- Play with your kids — tag is a great game to get the heart pumping.
- Laugh, jump up and down, dance, and just enjoy life.
Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore on your to-do list or something that you dread. If you make choices throughout each day to help you move a little more, your heart will reap the benefits.
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