Be active one step at a time
January 11, 2023
As a physical therapist, I tell my patients that motion is lotion or movement is medicine. Our bodies are made for movement and movement makes them feel better. To become more active daily, follow the mantra: “Move more, sit less.” Next, make a realistic plan to make exercise part of your weekly routine. A mix … Continued
Jessica Denn PT, DPT
As a physical therapist, I tell my patients that motion is lotion or movement is medicine. Our bodies are made for movement and movement makes them feel better.
To become more active daily, follow the mantra: “Move more, sit less.” Next, make a realistic plan to make exercise part of your weekly routine.
A mix of physical activity – aerobic, flexibility, strength and resistance training – is recommended for good health:
- Aim for 150-300 minutes (2.5-5 hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Or 75-150 minutes (1.25 to 2.5 hours) per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. If you are able, try a mix of moderate and vigorous intensity aerobic activity. If you’re breathing hard but can have a conversation, the activity is moderate. If you can only say a few words before you take a breath, the activity is vigorous. A walking program is one of the easiest places to start.
- Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity a week. Physical activity are everyday tasks such as shoveling snow, vacuuming, yard work. As long as you are moving.
- At least 2 days a week of muscle-strengthening activity. Do activities that make your muscles work harder than usual. Strength and resistance training is also good for your bones, balance and coordination to help prevent falls and breaks.
- Choose types of physical activity that are appropriate for your current fitness level and goals. If you are an older adult or have chronic conditions, be as physically active as your health allows. Before you start a new routine, consult your primary care provider.
How do you get there?
- Start small. If you begin a walking program, start by walking five minutes a day. Gradually you will work your way up to 10, 15 and 30 minutes at a time. By slowly exposing yourself to an activity, you will reduce the risk of injury.
- Find joy in movement. If you love the water, try a water aerobics class. If you like walking, there are great indoor options at VINE Adult Community Center, Madison East Center, River Hills Mall, Mankato Family YMCA, St. Peter Community Center and others. Fitness classes are a great option. Check your town’s community education offerings. You may even find dance classes if that’s your jam.
- Strength training. Many simple strength and resistance training exercises can be done at home. For most exercises, your body weight is all you need. Squats, calf raises, leg lifts, modified pushups and sit-ups, arm circles, are a good place to begin. You can also use light hand weights or elastic resistance bands to strengthen your arms, chest and back. Do a leg session one day and an upper body session another day. If you join a gym, get a tour to make sure you are using the machines and weights correctly. Above all, start light; go low and slow. If it hurts, stop. Try doing each exercise in sets of 10 repetitions. If that’s too much, stop at 6 or 8 reps and work your way up. Watch online videos on proper form to prevent injury.
- Add movement to your day. Taking stairs instead of elevators, parking further from the entrance, a 5 minute walking break on your lunch hour. Doing a little bit every day adds up.
- Track your progress: Visit Move Your Way for tools, videos and fact sheets. Try the activity planner, an interactive tool to make an activity plan based on the activities you like. With your smart phone, you can also download free fitness apps to track your progress. Your company’s wellness program may also offer a free fitness app.
- Set mini-goals. When you meet your goal, such as walking for 10 minutes, 5 times a week, reward yourself. Maybe it’s a high five, dancing in the kitchen, watching a movie, a cup of tea, going to the library, new fitness gear. Partner with a friend to work out and celebrate together! Give yourself grace if you don’t meet your goal. You’ll do better tomorrow.
Movement can help you feel better right away. Physical activity boosts your mood, sharpens focus, reduces stress and improves sleep!