One Size Does Not Fit All: The Art and Science of Being Physically Active

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • How many of you wish you could work out more but feel like you just don't have the time or that you can't afford the equipment or the membership fees? How many of you feel like all the fitness programs out there are really intended for...I don't know...anyone but you?


    My guess is quite a few.


    It is very evident that obesity rates are on the rise. Many things come into play here and physical inactivity is a biggie. Reasons for the physical activity? Also plentiful. People are working long hours and don't want to spend the few hours of personal time they have working out. They may feel they can't afford the high costs of gym memberships or the broad range of home gym equipment available. It is also a momentum issue: It can start to feel like an uphill battle. Too hard to get started with no light at the end of the tunnel encouraging us forward.

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    I understand all this. I do. But I also know that this trend of physical activity must be reversed and the only way to do it is one day (and one workout) at a time.


    A large study was done by the University of Alberta, which studied a sample of over 275,000 individuals and their physical activity, or lack thereof. "Our study uncovered some definite trends and preferences when deciding how and if a person wants to be physically active," said Brad Humphreys, an economics professor at the University of Alberta. "It is clear that different genders, ethnicities and income levels have very diverse influences and choices when it comes to being physically active."


    Translation: different strokes for different folks.


    Your fitness regimen doesn't have to match mine (or any other fitness expert's for that matter) in order for it to be effective. Physical fitness doesn't even require you to have a formal "fitness regimen" at all. Just changing things up to increase the overall level of physical activity is the key.


    There are so many different things that can be done at home or throughout the work day. Opportunities abound at every turn. I try to take every chance I can to get out with my kids for a quick walk-run-bike ride, for one example. It not only gets us all outside in the fresh air, but I get a workout (and some much needed stress relief) as well. And it doesn't cost a penny. Taking the kids to the park? When is the last time you tried to swing across the monkey bars---it's not easy! Make a game of it. Challenge yourself.


    Weather terrible? No kids around? How about getting up early and walking the local mall? You might get some added inspiration with the built-in window shopping.


    Malls not your thing? Stepping up the house- and yard-work is another opportunity. Get rid of the riding mower and get out there and break a sweat. Your curb appeal and your appeal with improve all at the same time!


    Here are some other tips for increasing your level of physical activity, whatever your schedule and lifestyle may be:


    Plan ahead.

    Track your free time during the day and schedule in something active. If it's only your lunch hour and you can't get to and from a gym with a shower in time, go for a walk. Walk to the corner to get a healthy lunch. Walk to the park. If there are stairs in your office, run 'em. Just do something -anything- that gets you moving.


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    Everything counts, in all amounts.

    You don't have to do 30 or 60 minutes all at once. Splitting up your activity into mini-sessions throughout the day can be just as effective. A 10 minute walk here, a stair climb there, dancing around with the vacuum before dinner. If you're movin', you're groovin'.


    Mix it up.

    Something I have mentioned in other articles, but worth repeating. This is good for a couple of reasons. One: Mixing it up helps eliminate boredom, which could lead to you getting burnt out and quitting altogether. Two: It maximizes your workout by changing up the muscles that get used. Your body gets used to doing the same thing over and over again, and if the same workout is performed day in and day out, your body will eventually plateau and it won't react to the workout as well. Changing things up keeps your body (and brain) alive and awake wondering what move is next.


    Get out of your comfort zone.

    Do something fun that is also physical: Join a fitness or dance class that meets once a week. Not only will it be a break from your typical workout and same old routine, it has its social advantages too. You could meet many new, interesting people and maybe even hook-up with a workout buddy that could help motivate you and vice versa. And once a week is something you can schedule in and stick to.


    Fake it 'til you make it.

    Yeah, it's hard to get started. And it's hard to make changes. But once you make the decision to become more active and commit to this change in your lifestyle, being more active just becomes part of your day. Part of who you are.


    I, as a wife and working mother of two young children, know all too well how hard it is to find the time each day to exercise. Do I miss some days? You bet. But I make fitness a priority, not only for myself but for the health of my family as well. And I remind myself that sometimes good enough is good enough. Just doing something is always better than doing nothing. So, "just do it" something).

Published On: April 15, 2008