Many people daydream of being really fit. The ones who achieve such a challenging goal are willing to work hard and be patient with a rather long, ongoing process. The National Center for Health Statistics recently reported that only approximately 19 percent of Americans engage in high levels of physical activity. Dare to be in this exceptional group. After all, being really fit decreases your chances of getting various diseases and disorders. You are likely to feel better and able to participate more fully in life.
Work on your attitude about fitness. Important factors that determine whether you are likely to continue any program include your state of mind, attitude and commitment. Be clear to yourself about why you want to get fit. Make a list of reasons and stick them somewhere you will see them each day, especially before it is time to exercise. Rework them if your reasons change; stay focused on what you really want to achieve through getting very fit.
Try a variety of workouts. Hundreds of sports and activities are available. Try all that sound fun to you. For example, you might find you love tap dancing but hate salsa; learning that is a matter of trial and error. Finding an activity you truly is enjoy is crucial to getting in great physical condition -- and staying that way. If you enjoy exercising, you will want to do it at least three to five times per week .
Develop a plan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get a minimum 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Examples of this type of exercise are water aerobics, brisk walking and playing basketball. Those experts recommend that you slowly increase your activity until you are getting 300 minutes per week. Since you aim to get really fit, work up to beyond 300 minutes, which will provide even greater health benefits. Alternate between exercising for longer periods of time and shorter, but more intense workouts.
Incorporate weight-bearing workouts into your routine every other day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults do muscle-strengthening exercises two days per week that work out the shoulders, arms, abdomen, hips, legs and back. Examples of appropriate strength-training exercise include the use of resistance bands, lifting weights and yoga.
Modify your daily choices. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Try riding a bike for local errands. Park far away from the store when you shop. When you add in extra exercise to your daily routine, it just becomes part of your day, and your physical fitness level naturally increases.
Set a long-term goal to motivate you to keep increasing how fit you are. Pick a marathon, a triathlon, a 5K race or simply a personal fitness goal. Personalize it to what truly excites you about moving. If getting your kids active is a strong motivating factor for you, plan an event where you all celebrate how far you've come in your fitness goals. If dancing is your passion, vigorously train five days per week for a recital or competition.
- CNN: Why You Really Should Get Fit By 40
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- The New York Times: In ‘Obesity Paradox,’ Thinner May Mean Sicker
- Men's Health: 20 Ways to Stick to Your Workout
- Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine: Meat Bad for You and the Environment
- Harvard School of Public Health: The Benefits of Physical Activity
- Speak to your doctor or other health care professional before beginning any exercise program. Get a complete physical exam to receive a clean bill of health before starting the first workout on your new plan.
- Keep in mind that achieving fitness is not necessarily achieving a thin waistline. People sometimes mistake being thin or svelte as being fit, but that is often not the case. Heavier people can be fit, and thin people can be unfit.
- Eat a well-balanced diet for optimal health. Obtaining physical fitness won't feel as great without the sense of overall well-being that proper nutrition provides. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recommends a vegan diet for greater overall health.
- Never do muscle-bearing exercises using the same groups of muscles two days in a row. Give each set of muscles a day off between heavy lifting and muscle-building activities.
- Do not lift weights that are too heavy for you. Avoid injury by only lifting weights that you can safely lift for 15 repetitions without great strain. Slowly build your strength before moving on to heavier weights.
- Do not look to the scale for evidence of your physical fitness. As Dr. Carl Lavie, a medical director of John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans, told "The New York Times," it is "more important to maintain your fitness than your leanness."
Robin Raven was first published in 1998. She has contributed to newspapers, magazines and online publications, including "The Malibu Times," "Act'ionLine" for Friends of Animals, USA Today Travel Tips and the official Melissa Gilbert website. Raven specializes in travel, health, beauty, culture, vegan nutrition, joyful living, arts and entertainment. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in writing.