Here is what we know already. Today's obesity epidemic puts everyone on notice that letting yourself go is no longer an option. Getting out of shape can lead to life-threatening health complications – cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high-blood pressure. Exercise is a must.
But where do you find the time to exercise? Joining a gym is not always a practical option. How can people stay trim who are busy with jobs, household chores, errands and spending time with family and friends? The new buzz word is "integrative exercise."
This concept of combining exercise with daily living includes everything from doing squats while you load the dishwasher to choosing stairs over elevators. Getting fit can be fun when you discover healthy creative workouts are available right now everywhere and in everything you do.
Jacqueline Epping of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) explains, "The notion behind suggestions like taking the stairs and parking farther away from your destination when you drive, exiting the bus or subway earlierthese are all ways to integrate physical activity into the normal course of your day."
Suppose you put in a lot of home time. Try waking up 30 minutes earlier than usual and either hopping on the treadmill or going out for a neighborhood walk. If it's house-cleaning day, scrub the bathtub, mop the floor, dust the furniture at a pace fast enough to raise your heart rate.
Outdoor chores come with built-in exercises. Sprucing up your property is hard work. Raking leaves, digging in the garden and cutting the grass with a push mower are all calorie-burning forms of no-nonsense strength training.
When you come back indoors, watch television but also remain active. Use hand weights, peddle a stationary bike or do a stretching routine during your favorite show. Little things count, too, so it's worth it to get off the couch to change channels or adjust the volume.
Family activities are among the most rewarding ways to be vigorous. Take walks together, go bike riding or play a little catch. Try for 30 minutes of continuous activity, but however long, it's always time well spent. So is taking the family's best friend, your dog, outside for either a long walk in the park or a quick tour around the block.
If staying home distracts you, get your exercise elsewhere. An encouraging group of like-minded people can do wonders to make being active a high point of your day. Try a dance club, hiking group, tai chi class or golf league. Meet friends at the zoo, and go on family outings. When you shop for groceries or go to the mall, park farther away than usual and, if you have time, walk around and enjoy the "passing scene." Community volunteer work can be a way to help your health by helping others.
Once you get the hang of this lifestyle, new ideas come thick and fast. To keep your integrative exercise program going, keep it fun. The mini-workouts should be as challenging as possible but never allowed to turn into a completely separate event from the main business of getting on with everything you need and like to be doing. That's the beauty of the concept. It is totally you.
"There is no one-size-fits-all strategy," says Jacqueline Epping. "It's going to be different for different people and vary across your own lifetime. So it's important to be able to identify what is fun and purposeful for you and design your activity around that."
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