By Fatima Villalobos, MS, MEd

In honor of May being National Physical Fitness and Sports month, what better time to “seize the day” – better yet, “seize your life,” by making exercise a part of your everyday routine.  We all know exercise is good for us— oodles of research have shown us that increasing physical activity:

  • improves weight control, mood, and sleep
  • helps us manage or reduce our risk for certain chronic diseases
  • creates positive changes in blood cholesterol and blood pressure
  • increases strength, flexibility, and balance

With endless benefits that spans all age groups, why is exercise the first thing we sacrifice when our schedules get too busy? The truth is, we know what we need to do to become more active—what is lacking for a lot of us is determination, time, or an element of fun to help keep us motivated over the long run.

The key is to think of exercise as a long-term investment in one’s health.  Like a retirement plan for secured wealth, if you invest in exercise now,  you can reap the benefits of a secured health for years to come.

With spring weather upon us, it’s a great time to get active and MOVE. The key is to start slow and balance aerobic exercise, resistance training, and flexibility exercises such as stretching into your routine. Current exercise recommendations by the Department of Health and Human Services for all ages can be found here. While moderate intensity activity is usually safe for most people, it is best to seek the advice from your health care professional about the types and amounts of physical activity that is right for you

Here are some tips to incorporate exercise and stay motivated:

Problem 1: Lacking Determination?

  • Track your progress on a calendar or in a journal devoted only to your exercise routine.  It can be as simple as marking an “X” for the days you exercised or it can be as detailed as you want to make it.
  • Stay realistic.  Aim to improve, little by little, by increasing intensity, frequency or duration of exercise.
  • Challenge yourself and a buddy to meet a specific and realistic goal in 2-3 months time.  Write it down and check in with each other’s progress.  Reward yourselves with a lunch outing at the end of the challenge.


Problem 2: Not Enough Time?

  • When checking the mail or taking out the trash, extend your walk by circling your neighborhood.
  • Plan a family activity for the week. Schedule it in as if it were an appointment with the doctor.
  • Buy small resistance weights to use while watching TV before bed; you can also use common grocery items (soup cans, bags of rice or bottled water) for resistance
  • When possible, choose to ride your bike or walk to complete simple errands at nearby locations
  • Do some quick leg stretches before getting up in the morning or when putting on your shoes


Problem 3: Where’s the Fun?

  • Pick activities you like to do.
  • Add variety!  Perform aerobic activity 3x/week, play racquetball once a week and lift weights for 2 days/week.
  • For the next vacation or when visiting a new city, scope out the area on Google maps or other search engines to ensure a proper “play-pen”.  Plan to play frisbee or volleyball at the beach, a game of baseball or basketball at the community park or a swim at the hotel pool.
  • Get a buddy to join you for a walk, bike ride, or run.  Catch up on the latest news while getting your workout in.
  • Try something new, like an aerobics or dance class.

Physical activity is only part of the story to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  Just as you begin to find time for exercise, it is equally important to fuel your body with the proper nutrients needed for continuous energy, repair and replenishment.  After any workout, I make sure to eat some fresh fruit and water to rehydrate and replenish lost electrolytes.  For a quick post-workout meal that combines energy and protein, I like to combine hummus, spinach, low-fat cheese and turkey in a La Tortilla Factory Smart & Delicious Multigrain Wrap made with extra virgin olive oil.  The fact that I am eating healthier fats, 9g protein and 12g of fiber at only 100 calories allows me to enjoy a satiating meal while still reaping the benefits of my workout.

For additional tips on incorporating exercise into your everyday life and to read about the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, visit http://www.health.gov/PAGuidelines/.  For strategies and tips on helping kids become more active and eat better, check out the latest strides and suggestions from the Let’s Move initiative at http://www.letsmove.gov/.

No more excuses!  As difficult as the first step may seem, the long term benefits are too important to miss out on—and don’t forget to have fun!