You don’t have to be a gym rat to live healthier, longer

It’s one of the worst kept secrets going:

Being active can help reduce your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.

It can reduce your dependence on medication and lower your risk of heart attack, stroke and a number of other health issues.

Essentially, regular exercise can help you be healthier, feel better and live longer.

Most of us would like to be healthier, and we know what kind of behaviours would make us healthier.

But for many Canadians, the idea of getting “fit” is incredibly daunting. They see ads for fitness programs, and it seems that all of them project an image of fitness that is unattainable:

  • Dramatic weight loss

  • Young models with almost all muscle and no fat

  • Six-pack abs, etc.

While these images may inspire some to get up off the couch, for many of us, they are incredibly deflating. Not everyone can look like that, no matter how much they work out.

The good news is, you don’t have to. Everyone can live healthier, and you don’t need a gym membership, yoga pants or buns of steel to do it. All you need is thirty minutes a day.

Even half an hour may seem like a lot if you haven’t exercised in years, but there’s more good news. You don’t need to go to a gym, and the thirty minutes can be split up into chunks.

The following suggestions should be achievable for most Canadians, but be sure to check with your doctor, especially if you have a heart condition or if you’re recovering from an injury:

  • If you watch the morning news before work, try marching on the spot for ten minutes instead of sitting.

  • You might get a little sleepy at work after lunch. A good way to combat this – and get some exercise – is to go for a brisk ten-minute walk after you eat. Bring a friend if you want!

  • We’ve all heard of “dance like no one’s watching”. Well, when you get home, try putting on some up-tempo music that you like, and dance.

All of the above should make you sweat a bit to deliver the health benefits you want, but don’t go so fast that you can’t speak. Add some weights to get more benefits for your bones and muscles. It doesn’t need to be a barbell. You can buy wrist and ankle weights that you’ll hardly notice, or find household items that weigh 2-5 pounds (each hand) and swing your arms while you walk, march or bop to the music.

Modifying things you already do can also help. If you’re golfing, walk the course if you can and if it’s not too hot. If you’re at a concert, stand instead of sitting. It’s hard to get away with that at a movie theatre, but you can certainly stand part of the time that you watch TV at home.

Research shows that any level of activity is better than no activity, so getting off the couch doesn’t need to mean going to run a marathon. Standing is better than sitting, and walking is better than standing.

Your health will improve, if only gradually, but making small improvements that are achievable is much better than buying a $2,500 fitness machine that gathers dust in the corner, or a gym membership that you use three times a year.

So the next time you find yourself wanting to feel better, but don’t know where to start, just stand up. Remember, being fit is relative. Be the kind of fit that fits for you.