When it comes down to it, walking is just about the healthiest activity we can do. The fact that it’s also one of the easiest activities we can do makes it that much better.
So if all you do is walk more, you’re taking a big step in the right direction!
First of all, whenever you get a chance to get outside and take a walk around the block, do it! If you don’t have anything else to do, get outside and get some fresh air a few times a day. A 10-minute walk around the block can turn into a very healthy habit.
Think about the short local trips that you take. Could you walk to those destinations rather than drive? If you’re heading to visit a friend on the other side of your neighborhood, take the opportunity to walk for 20 minutes each way rather than drive for 2. In other words, leave the car in the garage once in a while and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Maybe even grab a neighbor to walk with you!
You can also endeavor to park farther away from the stores you visit and take the stairs instead of the elevator. Find opportunities to walk and you’ll find that it can really add up to some serious health benefits.
2. Find a Partner or Group
Much like asking a neighbor to take a walk with you, try and find a partner or group for activities. Not only does it make it more enjoyable, but they can hold you accountable. You’re less likely to skip an exercise class or hike up the mountain if you have committed to doing so with someone else.
Sure, you may never actually put on that Zumba DVD your daughter gave you while you’re at home, but it’s not hard to find a class full of like-minded (and similarly aged) women that will encourage you to do your best while they do the same. And you’d be far more likely to head back for another class with that kind of camaraderie and support.
Gentlemen, that example was for the ladies but you get the picture. Find a walking buddy, a golf partner, or a friend to hit the gym with 3 days a week so you can catch up and live a more active lifestyle at the same time.
Taking the dog for a daily walk could be a great way to make your dog very happy and allow you to lead a more active lifestyle at the same time. (Don’t have a dog? Borrow one from a neighbor or one of your children!)
If you plan activities throughout the week you’ll be far more likely to do them. Fitness classes at your local gym or recreation center are a great way to stick to a regular activity routine without the pressure of creating your own schedule.
If you’re up for the challenge, schedule 3 walks around the local park or lake with your spouse each week. Go explore new places you’ve never been that get you walking around and sightseeing a bit.
Make plans and you’ll be far more likely to stick to your active lifestyle!
One of the best ways to stick to an active lifestyle is by setting goals. They could be as simple as walking around the block every day with your grandchildren, losing 10 pounds in the next 3 months, or eating a salad (or green smoothie, etc.) 5 days a week.
The point is to know what you want to accomplish from your healthy lifestyle so you can take the steps necessary to do so. Write your goals down and stick them on the fridge or bathroom mirror so they remind you of why you’re doing what you’re doing and to motivate you to keep up the good work.
You may have lots of other things going on in your life and assume that means you don’t have time to lead an active lifestyle. That’s just not so!
Let’s say you have 5 minutes to do some sets of jumping jacks in the morning, 5 more minutes to climb the stairs you pass on your way from another engagement, and 10 minutes to walk around the block before or after dinner.
You’ll have burned some extra calories, gotten your heart rate elevated, and exercised your muscles three times that day and your body will be much better for it! Your active lifestyle doesn’t have to mean making major changes to your current routine. Fit it in where you can and you’ll be taking small steps to accomplishing your goals throughout the day.
No matter what health goals you set, they’ll be far easier to accomplish if you're having fun along the way. Maintaining an active lifestyle doesn’t have to mean dreading a workout three times a week or doing something you don’t like.
Sure, you may have less fun the first time you try a new activity, but pushing past some initial awkwardness isn’t what we’re talking about. Give several activities a try. If you find that you enjoy one over another, pursue it even if it’s not as “healthy” or “effective” as the other.
By finding activities you enjoy you’ll be far more likely to make them a part of a healthy active lifestyle rather than a short-term kick that you eventually let go of.
Speaking of trying new activities, remember that you're looking to maintain an active lifestyle, not get marathon-ready in 2 months. Instead of going gung-ho and burning yourself out or making a proclamation that something is too hard, take baby steps.
Walk around one block three times each week. When that gets easy, make it 5 days or 3 blocks. If walking doesn’t give you the same endorphin rush anymore, ease into a class at the local fitness center or a light workout in the gym.
By taking small steps to get acclimated to your new active lifestyle, you’ll be far more likely to enjoy your activities and less likely to overdo it and quit.
While we’re on the topic of starting small, be sure to get your warm-ups in before any activities. Stretching before and after any activity can help you avoid sore or stiff muscles, loosen up important tendons and ligaments, and help you avoid injury.
For example, if you feel like you’re ready to jog, start with a 5-10 minute walk beforehand to get the blood circulating and your muscles loosened up.
Finally, be sure to stay properly hydrated. That means drinking water throughout the day and attempting to get at least 2 quarts/liters for women and 3 for men. Proper hydration is a great way to maintain the health of your muscles, tendons, and ligaments so you can keep up with your active lifestyle.
Another way to make sure you’re always ready to lead an active lifestyle is fueling your body with the right foods.
You know you don’t feel like being active after heading out for a cheeseburger and milkshake, so if you’re planning to participate in one of your scheduled activities try to eat something that gives you the energy to do your best.
That could be a fruit smoothie in the morning before a walk, or a bowl of rice, veggies, and chicken for lunch. Pick your favorite foods that empower your active lifestyle rather than making you want to go watch TV or take a nap.
The final tip on this list is to be persistent. You won’t alway feel like getting up and getting active. There will be times you need to push through that feeling of wanting to abandon your goals, especially in the beginning.
Rather than opting out, push yourself to get moving. Once you actually do so you’ll probably feel much more energized. Sometimes it’s just a matter of breaking out of a fog or funk and getting your heart going.
We’re not saying to push yourself when you’ve been up all night handling an emergency or are actually sick, but if you’re just feeling a little lazy and unmotivated be sure to give it your all. It’s one of the most important aspects of truly maintaining your active lifestyle for the long term and being there for the ones you love the most.