It slims your hips, flattens your belly, boosts your spirits and, according to a recent study that had us cheering loudly, packs a longevity bonus as powerful as drugs for people living with heart disease, diabetes or the aftermath of a stroke. We're talking about the amazing benefits of physical activity.
So if you're among the 80 percent of Americans searching for the motivation to get or stay active, we've got the secret: Tell your inner gym teacher to take a hike.
That's right. Stop believing that activity's gotta hurt, use up lots of time, be exhausting or bore you to tears. Those myths keep way too many people on the couch.
The truth: Small amounts of easy, enjoyable activity are best for revving up your energy level and boosting your mood. In fact, by slashing stress and increasing levels of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin, one workout (you, strolling around the block) can help you feel great for a whopping 12 hours.
It's no wonder that "enjoyment," "fun" and "happiness" are top reasons regular exercisers stick with it. A new report from the University of New Hampshire even found that people who remembered something pleasant about a past exercise session worked out 20 percent to 60 percent more often than folks who remembered the negatives. If you haven't found your own exercise groove yet due to discomfort, tiredness, lack of time or just feeling too out-of-shape or uncoordinated to get out there, these easy, fun strategies will get and keep you moving because they feel so good.
If you're turned off by wasting time driving to the gym, changing clothes, a shower afterward, try ...
Walking, the no-fuss routine: Save time with workouts you can do right now, without getting into your car, pulling on special clothes or having to shower afterward. Hop on a treadmill for brief strolls whenever you has a few minutes. Or take a quick walk in your neighborhood or by marching in place during TV commercials. At work, schedule a couple of daily strolls. You see improvements in better circulation and blood pressure.
If you're turned off by solitude, try ...
Enlisting a friend: Stroll with a friend at home and/or at work. You get companionship, accountability and may even burn more calories!
And then there are the benefits of walking with a dog. Besides boosting the enjoyment of your average walk, dog owners are 20 percent less likely to be obese than nondog owners. But wear a pedometer. The average hour-long dog walk delivers a nonpedometer wearer only about eight minutes of walking; by wearing a pedometer, you'll get close to 50 minutes!
If you're turned off by boot-camp-style workouts or a boring routine at the gym, try ...
Dancing or playing outside: Love moving to music? You'll burn lots of calories and reap benefits like a healthier heart and protection against dementia. Hula-hoop, shimmy and shake to your favorite tunes out back at home, or take an outdoor dance exercise class like Zumba. You can toss a Frisbee, work in the garden.
If you're turned off by feeling achy afterward, try ...
Backing off a little: Overdoing it is a big reason why exercise newbies quit, so keep in mind that a comfortably paced routine is better for boosting energy and mood. If you're an experienced exerciser who's traded up to a too-tough routine, dial down the intensity of your routine a little so that you can't wait to do it again.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit www.sharecare.com.
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