Being fit isn't just about looking good or fitting into your favorite jeans. Physical fitness is the ability to carry out your daily living with energy, without undue fatigue and with enough left over to enjoy leisure-time activities. It's feeling up to the task of the moment. Although it might seem that staying with a fitness plan is just too much work if you're already pooped, look again. Fatigue that is due to inactivity and being overweight only gets worse with time. Here are some simple ways to improve your health and wellness.
1. Remember the feeling as a kid -- riding your bike as fast as you could, for no particular reason? You can capture that "just because" feeling again. Ask yourself what you like to do in terms of moving your body. Is it walking, swimming, biking, or even dancing through your house? If you choose an activity that you prefer, chances are you'll stick with it.
2. Set realistic goals. Be specific, not vague. ("I'll walk during my lunch hour three times this week" as opposed to, "I'll try to get more exercise.")
3. "No pain, no gain" is a myth. Exercise should require some effort, but pain is a warning signal that shouldn't be ignored.
4. Whatever activity you choose, don't overdo it. The most common cause of injury is exercising too aggressively. Try to approach the first few weeks of a new program with a gentle touch. If you tone it down and minimize soreness, you'll be much more eager to start again the next time you're scheduled to exercise.
5. Warm up and cool down. The first few minutes of exercise can feel overwhelming if you neglect a slow warm-up. As you warm to the activity, you'll feel more like picking up the pace. When it's time to quit, be sure to take five minutes of slower-paced movements to prevent an abrupt drop in blood pressure. The cool-down will also minimize muscle stiffness.
6. Maintain a balance between calorie intake and calorie expenditure. If you have more than a few pounds to lose, you'll need to set food limits along with your fitness activities. Although this might seem like a "duh" bit of advice, dieters often expect too much from an exercise program alone. Fitness results work hand-in-hand with dietary boundaries.
7. Find what motivates you. As a college student with limited funds, I bought an expensive pair of running shoes. Those shoes were a motivation to me, just because they were a kind of forbidden extravagance. Make a bet. Paste up a photo of yourself looking the way you want to look. Aim your efforts toward a special occasion, like a wedding or a class reunion. Whatever it is, look for a positive tone. (An internal dialogue of, "You're fat, step away from the groceries!" isn't the greatest inspiration to change.)
8. Pair up with a pal to diet and exercise. There's nothing like team work to help you stick to your fitness plan. Your friend can pick you up when you feel weak. You can drag your friend out when the excuses start to fly.
9. Incorporate moderate-intensity resistance workouts at least twice a week, lasting at least 15 minutes. If going to a gym is not an option, try using surgical tubing, an exercise ball, or a medicine ball. There are lots of books available that provide basic resistance workouts with these simple items and they can be done at home.
10. Live within your body style. You can't change your bone structure. Most people have something about their bodies that they would prefer to change. Maybe it is wide hips. Or extra roundness in the belly. Or a tendency to put on weight, behind. All of the areas that are perceived as problems can look better as a result of a basic fitness plan. You may still prefer someone else's body dimensions, but whatever you've got going will look and feel a whole lot better if you exercise regularly and watch what you eat.
A small effort at incorporating these principles can pay off with amazing results. In a world that is demanding of our time and stamina, a fit body can stand up to the challenges and make life much more pleasant.