The United States is one of the unhealthiest countries in the world – with more obese people than anywhere else on the globe. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), obesity in adults has increased by 60% within the past twenty years and obesity in children has tripled in the past thirty years. A staggering 33% of American adults are obese, and obesity-related deaths have climbed to more than 300,000 a year, second only to tobacco-related deaths.
So what’s the root of the problem? Quite simply, many Americans are eating too much and exercising too little. Between quick and easy processed foods with little nutritional value and an abundance of sedentary jobs and leisure activities that enable people to go literally hours without moving more than their fingers, it’s no wonder so many people are so overweight.
While changing your diet may seem like the obvious fix to losing those extra pounds, diet is only half the equation. In addition to cleaning up your eating habits by skipping the fast food and consuming more whole foods (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), you also need to get moving. In other words, you need to exercise.
Regular exercise has a number of benefits aside from the obvious one of helping control your waistline. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise also improves mood, combats chronic diseases, boosts energy levels, improves sleep, puts the spark back in your sex life, and promotes fun. With so many benefits, there’s no reason not to get moving. Fortunately, a good exercise routine doesn’t have to boring, nor does it have to be time consuming. Following are some tips for incorporating exercise into your life in a way that makes it both enjoyable and doable.
Exercise with a friend. Human beings are, by nature, social creatures. Even introverts crave contact with others. So rather than exercise alone, get a friend or family member involved. Having a workout buddy accomplishes two important things. First, it prevents you from feeling lonely when you exercise. Second, it gives you a source of motivation. Whenever you or your buddy are feeling less than eager to get moving, you can offer encouragement and the needed push to keep going. They say there’s power in numbers. And that’s true for exercise too.
Get creative with your exercise routine. No one said you had to go to a gym, run five miles, or do endless exercise videos to get in a good workout. There are numerous non-traditional forms of exercise that burn an incredible number of calories and promote muscle growth. For example, spend an hour doing any of the following “exercises” and see how many calories you could burn:
-Juggling: 272 calories
-Playing Frisbee: 204 calories
-Playing children’s games, such as Hopscotch, 4-square, Dodge Ball, Playground Apparatus, T-ball, Tetherball, Marbles, Jacks, etc.: 340 calories
-Dancing: 326 calories
-Bowling: 204 calories
-Cleaning your house: 246 calories
Make exercise a game. To get your family involved – even the youngest of members – make exercise a fun game that everyone will want to be a part of. Have contests to see who can come up with the most creative way to exercise, who can reach a health goal sooner (not necessarily weight loss, but perhaps climbing a flight of stairs in under two seconds, for example), who can go the longest without missing a “workout,” etc. Award points or prizes to winners – just make sure the prize isn’t a trip to the ice cream shop.
Hold yourself accountable. If your goal is to exercise more but no one knows about it, chances are you won’t do it. However, if you let everyone know what you’re doing and what your goals are, you’ll have some extra motivation to get the job done. Additionally, by having friends and family rally around you, you’ll be eager to prove to everyone how much you can accomplish. Some ways to spread the word about your new fitness goals include inviting friends to participate with you, doing exercise and weight/health updates on Facebook and Twitter, and even coordinating a workout “pool” where everyone contributes money and whoever loses the most weight or sticks to the exercise routine the best gets to keep the money.
Make exercise a natural part of your day. Doing something “when you have time” or “when you feel like it” is akin to saying “I’m not going to do it.” If you want to get serious about fitness it has to be a natural part of your day. For example, would you ever leave the house for work without brushing your teeth? Probably not. Even if you wake up late and are in a hurry, you have a specific morning routine you follow, which likely includes brushing your teeth. It’s the same with exercise. If you want to make sure you do it, you need to make the activity a regular part of your day, not something you only do when you have time or when you feel like it. As with anything it in life, doing it 100% is easy; doing it 99% is hard.
Get Fit Today
Obesity is a growing problem with health effects that go way beyond a few extra numbers on the scale. So whether you need to lose 5 pounds of 50, take the steps to add more physical fitness to your life. Being unfit and unhealthy is no longer an option. Make the lifestyle commitment to fitness today and you can add many more happy years to your life.