As the weather gets colder and the days shorter, I begin to lose interest in evening walks. It would be easy to turn on the television right after supper and cozy myself under a blanket until bedtime. Although this seems quite relaxing, I know that our bodies actually crave movement. Adults should strive for at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day, and children should get a minimum of 60 minutes.
Aerobic and recreational activities help strengthen your heart and lungs and boost your immune system. This exercise helps protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. It can also help manage a healthy body weight. Muscle strengthening activities, such as using hand weights, help keep you fit so daily activities are easier. Strengthening also helps keep bones strong. Flexibility activities, such as stretching, help keep your muscles and joints moving easily. Stretching can help prevent falls in the elderly.
It's important to note than when we exercise we actually boost our energy levels. I often hear people say they are too tired to work out when, in fact, the activity itself creates energy.
Don't fret, all this moving about doesn't have to take place at one time. That 10 minutes of vacuuming counts toward the day's total. Sometimes our job keeps us active, but many workers remain quite idle behind a counter or at a desk. Be creative and find fun ways to get moving. If you are bored with walking, mix it up to provide enjoyment. Signing up for dance or yoga classes would help combat the winter blues while adding all the physical benefits of exercise.
Sometimes change requires motivation. Find a friend or include the whole family to join in the fun. It helps to make a goal and reward yourself once the goal is reached. The sense of accomplishment can fuel your desire for more.
As always, talk with your doctor before increasing or beginning new physical activities if you have any health concerns. By choosing a blend of activities that you enjoy, you are keeping your one and only body in tip top shape. For more information, visit (www.ag.ndsu.edu/eatsmart).
Trisha Jessen is a Family Nutrition Program/North Dakota State University Extension Educator. She can be reached by email at Trisha.Jessen@ndsu.edu.