A closer look at why moving your body is important and what you can do to stay active
The benefits of exercise and being active
Being active helps you to stay healthy, happy and fit. You can enjoy the benefits of a healthy life in a way that is fun and suitable for your lifestyle. There are many different ways you can get active and finding the activity that suits you is an important first step. You may enjoy walking, running, dancing, surfing, going to the gym, swimming, yoga, Pilates, hiking, playing a team sport or a number of other activities.
Whatever activity you choose, some of the benefits include:
Improving your strength, fitness, and confidence which can help you to achieve your goals in life
Enabling you to become involved in fun new activities
Increasing your energy, flexibility and mobility
Helping you to manage stress and anger
Increasing your self-esteem
Helping you sleep better at night
Improving metabolic rate which prevents weight gain and allows you to manage a healthy weight
Exercising can be a good way to clear your head if you have a lot on your mind
Playing a team sport or joining an exercise center can introduce you to new people
Suggestions for becoming active
Everyone has a different level of physical fitness and finding a pace that is right for you is important. Exercise doesn’t have to be painful; it can be fun and require minimal organization and money. If you have medical difficulties or are feeling pain when you exercise, it is a good idea to talk with your doctor about what type of activities are best for you.
Here are some suggestions that may help when you start exercising:
Start gradually. Try not to do too much too fast. As a general rule, you should be able to hold a conversation, but not be able to sing while you are exercising. Remember that any amount of exercise is beneficial. You could start by using the stairs instead of the escalator or going for a 5 - 10 minute walk. As being active becomes easier, you can increase the time and intensity of your activity. Try not to become discouraged if you find yourself becoming pretty sore after starting your workouts. The more you do it, the easier it’ll become and the less you’ll feel sore. Think of it as really putting the work in and use that as encouragement to keep going.
Make it social. It can be more inspiring, helpful and fun if you exercise with a friend. Having someone else join you may increase your motivation and give you the opportunity to catch up socially. You could go for a walk, run, or swim together or you could join a group activity together.
Make it part of your routine. With the busy lives we lead, it is sometimes difficult to include exercise into our routine. A great way to start would be to set aside a time in the day for exercising, such as before or after dinner or before school or work. Other options include incorporating exercise into your daily life, like walking to school or work instead of catching the bus.
Make it fun. If you choose something you enjoy, being active and exercising can be a fun part of your day. You may want to kick a soccer ball with friends, play tennis, go dancing with a group, listen to music while walking or running or take the dog for a walk. Also, playing a team sport or joining a group activity will enable you to make new friends while still being active.
Where to go if you want to start to get active
Go to your local YMCA or YWCA. A YMCA or YWCA is a great place to go to work out or join a health or well-being program. Unlike a typical gym, the YMCA is catered towards activities and programs for young people and families. You could go just for a swim, take a class, and join a longer-term program or any number of other activities.
A gym. Even if you can’t afford going to the YMCA/YWCA, there are still fairly inexpensive options for gyms. Often times gyms can set you up with a personal trainer to help design a plan to meet your fitness goals and offer a variety of classes to learn from. If you’re intimidated by all the weights or machines, a personal trainer or gym employee can help explain how to use them safely. There are also videos online that show you how to have proper form when using free-weights like barbells, dumbbells, and kettle-bells, or when performing exercises on the machines.
Your local park. There is a good chance your local park has organized team sports. Joining a community team could be a fun, casual way to exercise and play your favorite sport. If you are worried about your ability to play the sport, these sorts of teams are usual more relaxed than a school or college team. Parks also sometimes hold events such as tournaments, festivals, yoga lessons or other activities that could be a different way of exercising. Also, a park is always a great place to go for a jog, ride a bike, exercise alone or play a sport with your friends.
Your school. Many states require physical education in schools by law. Taking a physical education class at school is a great way to get your daily exercise and start forming healthy exercise habits early on. If physical education is not a requirement, you may want to take a class anyway, especially if you are too busy with schoolwork and external activities to exercise outside of school. Another great way to exercise in school or college is by joining a team. You can do something you love, make a new group of friends, and have fun all while increasing your health! At the college level, many universities have fitness and recreation centers with a ton of options for exercising. Stop by your college’s fitness center and check out everything you could do there!
Acknowledgements: This article was partially developed by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com