If your doctor gave you a prescription she said would improve your emotional resilience, keep you mentally sharp, help you lose or maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of disease and injury, help you manage your chronic disease, improve your sex life, increase your energy, extend your lifespan, and cost little to nothing, you’d probably say, Come again?
Well, a huge and growing body of medical research confirms such a prescription is immediately available. And you don’t need a doctor to write it for you.
Of course, unlike taking a pill, you actually have to do something. And keep at it.
But you don’t have the time. Nobody in your circle of friends does it. You have a bad back (knee, shoulder, hip). You can’t afford the gym membership. You don’t look good in Spandex. You don’t have a shower at work. You fell off the exercise wagon, and you can’t find the motivation to start over. You hate exercise. You just don’t want to do it.
Do people really need to exercise?
Not really. Just give regular workouts to those muscles and tendons you plan to keep using. Because the use it or lose it principle really does govern how your body works.
New research suggests that just 15 minutes of exercise a day can add three years to your life. Half an hour or an hour or even more, and the many confirmed benefits noted above soar.
Yet fewer than one in five Americans gets half an hour of exercise three days a week, and more than a quarter of U.S. adults don’t get any.
Fitness is frugal
Fitness fits into the frugal, down-home household for many reasons, first and foremost because it minimizes your encounters and the costs associated with the professional healthcare system by cutting your risk of injury and illness and boosting your emotional health.
If you’re pregnant or nursing an injury, or if you have a serious disability or a chronic health condition, by all means see your health-care practitioner before you start an exercise program. He or she can help you find exercises that will work around your limitations but still deliver the benefits of becoming more active.
If not, get up and get moving. Do it today.
Tips to help you start and keep at it
- No excuses. Just do it.
- Start slow and work up. Increase your speed, duration, and strength gradually.
- The experts tell you to find something you enjoy. I say don’t worry about enjoyment. We’re not talking about the same sort of enjoyment that comes from eating a triple-fudge sundae with whipped cream.Most committed exercisers I know almost never want to pull on their duds and get moving. You don’t have to want to. You don’t have to enjoy it. You only have to do it. Today.
- Find a training partner or partners. The only requirements: Find someone about your level of fitness and someone who’ll always show up. When you find one, he or she will likely become your best friend.
- Read/learn everything you can about how your body works and responds to exercise.
- Learn to stretch and stay flexible to stave off injury.
- Stay indoors on bad air-quality days.
- Participate in “citizen” sports. Most footraces encourage walkers. Most multisport events encourage teams (i.e., for triathlons, a swimmer, a biker, and a runner). Many big races and charity events feature participant training programs that welcome all comers and tune you up under the supervision of an experienced coach.
What’s the best exercise?
Walking, walking the dog, jogging, running, splitting and stacking firewood, brisk raking, shoveling snow or compost, mowing the lawn with a push mower, snowshoeing, swimming, hiking, up-and-down-stairs repeats, jumping rope, dancing to the radio in your living room, hula-hooping?
The best exercise is one you do today. It’s the only one that counts.
Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.