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Moving From “Everyday Activity” to Exercise

Have you gone from taking the elevator to power-walking the stairs? Traded coffee breaks for walk breaks? Discovered pleasure in motion? If so, you’re becoming a naturally active person! Now you’re ready to expand your activity options and take your exercise to the next level.

The best activity plan for weight loss and maintenance includes cardio, resistance and stretching activities. These components make up a complete physical activity program to give you all the benefits exercise can provide. Not sure what counts as what?

Cardio, aka aerobic exercise, includes any activity that burns calories, increases your heart rate and conditions your cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels). Swim, dance, walk or work out on an elliptical trainer for your cardio activity. Many playful activities count as cardio too, such as soccer, tennis, and aerobics and dance classes.

Resistance, aka strength training, exercises that work your muscles against an opposing force -- think dumbbells, weight machines, resistance bands or your own body weight. These activities build and strengthen your muscles and bones.

Stretching, aka flexibility, is a form of physical exercise in which muscles are deliberately lengthened in order to improve elasticity. Stretching and activities that incorporate flexibility like yoga and Tai Chi can reduce stiffness, prevent injury, lengthen tight muscle groups, and rejuvenate your body and mind.

Incorporating activities in all of these three areas will help you burn more calories, both during and after your workout, and improve flexibility and balance. You don’t need to perform all three components during the same activity session. Create a plan that fits your schedule. Here are some ideas to raise your exercise level:

● If you’ve focused primarily on walking or biking, why not boost your metabolism with resistance training? Add in a short session after your cardio activity, or build in time for “pushing weights” somewhere else in your plan.

● If you’re already doing cardio, layer in some stretching with yoga. Yoga offers a combination of resistance and flexibility that can be both energizing and relaxing.

● If you’re new to resistance training, get a beginner-level workout DVD to ease into it and learn proper form.

Remember, whatever exercise you choose, always include a warm up and cool down.

Building on your active lifestyle with planned activity will support your weight loss efforts and help you keep it off. Planned exercise is also important in case your natural activity is hindered, like when you find yourself sitting at a desk or behind the wheel for much of the day. Sticking to your weekly exercise schedule will ensure you get the physical activity you need to improve your well-being and reach your goals