Is “sitting” the “new smoking”? As far as the harmful effects that an inactive lifestyle carries; this question is definitely worth thinking about. The healthcare providers at Student Health Services would write many prescriptions for regular exercise if that would motivate people to discover the benefits!

Exercise is essential for your heart, strengthens your muscles and bones, lifts depression, and lowers stress. Nearly half the new cases of “adult onset” or Type 2 diabetes (the kind associated with extra weight and lack of exercise) are in young people. Perhaps the increased self-confidence and self-esteem that results from a commitment to some type of regular exercise may be your rewarding motivation.

The Centers for Disease Control and the American College of Sports Medicine suggest 30 or more minutes of moderate physical activity on all or most days of the week. These minutes can be broken into 10 -15 minute increments throughout the day. The activity can be as simple as walking briskly to classes. It is important to just get moving.

Tips to add exercise into your life

  • Choose activities you enjoy and have fun! Read, listen to music, or watch TV while exercising. Dance, walk through the zoo, or learn a new sport.
  • Make exercise a priority. Plan a time for exercise or add it to your daily schedule.
  • Set realistic goals. Do not try to do too much too soon.
  • Do not get discouraged! It can take weeks or months to notice some of the improvements from exercise.
  • Vary your routine. Keep your body guessing and avoid the risk of boredom, burnout or injury.
  • Choose a comfortable time of day. Do not work out too soon after eating and be sensible about outdoor activities if it is extremely hot or cold outside.
  • Do not be obsessed with the scale—focus on the immediate benefits of increased energy, less stress, and more self-confidence.
  • Surround yourself with support. Exercising with someone else can make it more fun and more difficult to back out of when motivation lags. Check out intramural and club sports like soccer, football, or ultimate Frisbee.
  • It is possible to get too much exercise. Pay attention to your body—it will let you know when you are pushing too hard. Excessive exercise is a component of some eating disorders; so watch for red flags.
  • Reward yourself when you achieve your goals! Go to a movie, buy new clothes, get a new hair style, read a book, or just relax.

Types of Exercise

A variety of exercises are essential to your body’s optimum health. These include: cardiovascular (or aerobic), strength or resistance training, and stretching or flexibility.

Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise includes any activity that causes your heart to work harder to get more oxygen to your muscles.  Any activity that lasts longer than 3 minutes is considered aerobic. Typical examples would include biking, jogging, brisk walking, basketball, or swimming.  Aerobic activity decreases your resting heart rate, which puts less stress on your heart; increases the levels of HDL (good cholesterol in your blood), and burns calories.

Strength or resistance training promotes healthy bones and builds strength and muscles. It is essential for increasing your resting metabolism because resting muscles burn more calories than fat does. Aim for 2-3 sessions of resistance training a week, with at least 36 hours rest in between to allow the muscles to repair.

Flexibility or stretching exercises are important because they improve balance, posture, flexibility, and prevent injury. Do them frequently, either alone or as warm-ups and cool-downs. Yoga and Pilates are examples of this type of exercise. They have the added benefit of being meditative and stress-reducing.

Soreness is normal after you first start exercising or when you try a new exercise, but pain is not desirable. Stop if you hurt. Aim for a “target heart rate” most of the time and vary the intensity of your effort (also known as “interval training”) to most efficiently raise your metabolism.

Additional Resources

Mason Recreation

Centers for Disease Control

National Center on Health, Physical Activity, and Disability