We’ve all been there—those days when your get-up-and-go went elsewhere, leaving you with a long list of possible excuses not to exercise. From “I have other more important things to get done today” to “It’s raining” or “Skipping one day won’t hurt.”
But getting off track on your fitness routine can impact your health. Regular exercise reduces your risk for a host of diseases, including diabetes, stroke, heart disease and cancer.
How much is enough?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends two hours and 30 minutes of aerobic activity that’s of at least moderate intensity (for example, brisk walking) per week. That’s about the amount of time you might spend watching just one movie.
Another way to break it down is 30 minutes of activity five days a week. But you can exercise in increments as small as 10 minutes each, if that works better for you, and still reap health benefits. Recommended in addition to aerobic activity: two or more days a week of muscle-strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups.
Team up for success
Fortunately, research shows there’s a reliable way to help ensure that you exercise consistently: Get yourself some social and emotional support. When you exercise with a family member or close friend, you’re more likely to stick to your fitness commitment.
If you can’t exercise together, just talking about your fitness activities, successes, and challenges can help you stay the course. Even having someone to complain to when you don’t feel like heading to the gym or out for a walk is beneficial.
Once you’ve started exercising consistently, practical support also can help. For example, teaming up with someone who is willing to give you a ride to the gym when you need it, or who remembers your fitnessaccessory wish list when your birthday rolls around.
Studies have found that it’s equally important to avoid negative support—those friends or family members who repeatedly remind you that you may injure yourself, for example.
Another important caveat: Don’t let a spouse or anyone else take away your autonomy by telling you when to exercise or what you should be doing. Studies show that when people feel pressured to be physically active, they avoid it. Instead, set a plan that will work for you and ask others to support your approach.
Physical activity & health
Regular, moderate exercise is one of the best things you can do to protect your health. The many benefits of consistent physical activity include reduced risk of:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cancer (some types)
- Falls as you age