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Do you remember how much fun you had as a child running around playing tag, dodge ball, hopscotch, basketball? You stayed fit without a second thought. Fast-forward to today. Can you say you’re moving or exercising every day? If you are like the average American, you probably sit seven and a half hours a day behind a desk or in the car. That’s not fun or getting you fit.
While exercise was once second nature, now it requires a second thought. When it comes time to prioritize the day, oftentimes it’s personal fitness and health that get pushed to the side.
What if I told you that all you really need is two and a half hours of exercise a week—just 30 minutes a day, five days a week? It’s true. This is backed up by a new national plan for fitness released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Denise Austin, two-term member of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports,has these eight tips to help you get fit:
1. Map out a plan for success.
Create a business plan for your new healthy lifestyle, complete with your weekly, monthly and quarterly goals, tasks, responsibilities and benchmarks. Envision the outcome you want, your timeline and a reasonable path to achieve it. Then schedule your workouts as you would any important client meetings, and stick with them!
2. Assess your fitness level.
You may think of yourself as an athlete because you played high-school or college sports, but how long has it really been since you were able to maintain that same fitness level? Find out where you are now and work from there. One way you can do that is to take the President’s Challenge Adult Fitness Test (adultfitnesstest.org), which is similar to the one you took back in school as a kid. Determine your current fitness level, and compare yourself with others in your age range. Take it again in 30 days, after you’ve had a chance to follow a regular exercise program, to see how much you’ve improved.
3. Start with a daily dozen.
I made a resolution this year to do 12 sit-ups, 12 push-ups and 12 squats before I do anything else. Even if I don’t get in my usual 30-minute daily workout, I know that I’ve taken a small but effective step toward maintaining good health that day. Your daily dozen could be 12 minutes of exercises until you can commit to the full 30 minutes you need. Remember, small steps lead to big results!
4. Move up to 30 minutes.
Strive to achieve the Physical Activity Guidelines by working out for at least a half-hour each day, five times each week. Not only will you adopt a healthy, active lifestyle, but you will also feel so much better doing daily tasks, look better in your clothing, and improve your heart health and bone support. Think of your 30 minutes as 20 minutes of cardio, five minutes of stretching, leg lifts or sit-ups and five minutes of weight training. That’s doable, right? I know you can do it!
5. Challenge yourself.
Too often people carve out time for the gym, personal trainer sessions or exercise classes only to look at it as something they have to do, not something they look forward to doing. How many times have you skipped a workout for the day and then found that it got even harder to get back on track the next day? Keep your routine fresh by exploring biking, boxing, hiking, surfing, boot camps, yoga, Pilates or dance. When you find yourself bored with a routine, try something new!
6. Eat right.
Weight loss comes down to more calories burned than consumed. However, it’s so important to make sure those calories come from healthy sources, such as lean proteins, whole grains, healthy carbs, and fruits and vegetables. Keep track of your food and calorie intake in a journal to hold yourself accountable. Plan your meals in advance—right down to your healthy portable snacks like string cheese, nuts and fruit—so you don’t get caught off guard on your way to a meeting or working late in the office. Eat three small meals and two snacks every three to four hours, watch your portion sizes, don’t overeat, and you should be able to enjoy nearly all of your favorite foods in moderation.
7. Focus on hydration and circulation.
I fly frequently to make appearances all over the country, and I make sure that for every hour I am in the air I drink a glass of water to maintain my hydration. Make sure you get up every hour to stretch, raise your arms in the air, do some leg lifts or tummy squeezes to keep your circulation up and get your oxygen flowing. The same holds true if you’re sitting at your desk for long periods. You need that burst of oxygen to energize you to make you feel better!
8. Manage your stress.
Have you lost sight of the reason you work so hard in your career? Think about who you do it all for. Your good health means a lot to you and the people you love—who also love you back! Relax from the daily grind long enough to enjoy time with loved ones and, if possible, make your workouts into an activity that can be done with them. Don’t you already spend enough time apart from them? My husband, Jeff, and I work out every morning in our home gym before our girls wake up. It’s our quiet time together before our day picks up, the BlackBerries go off and the phone starts ringing. Why not include a partner in your daily workouts—even if you just head to the gym at the same time—or take up a new activity with them? When is the last time your family took a bike ride together?
No doubt your lists of achievements have grown since those childhood days on the playground. Isn’t it about time you added a personal one—of fitness and long-term health? That may be the reward that you come to value the most; I know for a fact that it will pay off for you in dividends!
Denise Austin is a fitness expert and television personality who has sold more than 20 million exercise videos and DVDs. She has had the longest-running fitness show in the history of television. Denise is also a member of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.