In counseling my patients to improve their health and better manage weight, I always ask about each person’s physical activity habits.
More specifically, I ask, “On a typical day, what’s the most physically active thing you do?”
I encourage my patients to think about developing a ‘movement portfolio’ of varying activities that get their bodies moving more.
Some activities are very easy while others take some advance planning to schedule them into the day.
If you also are interested in building a movement portfolio, here are some tips to guide you:
1-Take More Steps
Different than planned exercise, here’s where you want to find opportunities to get in more steps in the course of your normal day’s routine.
Tracking your steps using a wearable activity tracker or smartphone app can help gauge where you’re at and can also be used as a motivator.
A general goal is to take 8000-10,000 steps per day.
I encourage my patients to use their tracker data to set short-term, realistic weekly activity goals.
To get in more steps, you may walk your dog longer, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car farther away, pace while talking on a conference call or work in your garden.
All activity counts toward better health!
2-Challenge your Heart and Lungs
Here’s where you want to set aside time for aerobic activities that get your heart beating faster, helping to build cardiorespiratory fitness.
Recommendations are to get at least 150-minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week.
This can be accomplished with 30 minutes of physical activities 5 times per week; examples include brisk walking, Zumba dancing or using home exercise equipment while watching favorite TV shows.
If you have physical issues that make it hard to exercise, you will want to consult with your personal physician to get clear parameters of what you can and cannot do.
Working with a physical therapist or personal fitness trainer can also help you develop a program that’s safe for your condition.
3- Don’t Resist Resistance
Many of my patients are surprised to learn that they don’t need to go to a health club to do resistance-training exercises.
Instead, from the comforts of your home, you can make your muscles work harder using exercise bands, free weights and even your own body weight by doing calisthenics like squats and planks.
Building, toning and maintaining muscle strength is important as we age.
Recommendations are to do resistance-training exercises at least two times per week.
Again, if this is new to you, online exercise videos or using a personal fitness trainer can be helpful.
4-Stretch Your Body and Mind
A movement portfolio also includes stretching-type exercises.
This may be as simple as lying on the floor to do back stretches each morning, stretching your neck and shoulders when sitting at the computer or taking a yoga or tai chi class.
Stretching 2-3 times per week is good for your joints and can improve muscle performance.
It can also feel good and be a relaxation-type activity to help you better manage stress.
The key to any program that you want to sustain is enjoyment.
Know that your movement portfolio can change as your needs and interests change.
If boredom strikes, this may be the time to try something new.
Robert Kushner, MD