If a training program sounds too tough, don't despair. "The more you do, the better it is, but it's not all or none," Christina C. Wee, MD, MPH, tells WebMD. "Do as much as you can."
If you're overweight or out of shape, breaking up your daily activity into shorter bursts may be easier, says Wee, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, and author of an editorial that accompanied the study. You don't have to run a marathon -- gardening, vacuuming, and doing laundry can all burn calories while keeping your heart fit.
"I stay in shape just keeping up with my 11-year-old grandson and his friends," says Ricci, who mows the lawn once a week and cleans house, in addition to supervising neighborhood football games.
Before starting any fitness program or even just picking up the pace of your usual activities, be sure to talk with your doctor. What questions should you ask?
- Should I limit any activities because of medical conditions or physical injuries?
- What's the safest way to start? Do I need to build up gradually to my fitness goals, warm up or stretch before exercise, or cool down afterwards?
- Should I avoid intense sunlight, temperature extremes, mosquitoes, exhaust fumes, or other environmental conditions?
- Are there times I should not exercise vigorously, like after eating or before bedtime?
- Should I cut back if I experience extreme fatigue or muscle pain?
- Are there warning signs for which I should get medical help immediately, like chest pain, faintness, or extreme shortness of breath?
Once you've got medical clearance, just do it! "Anything you can do to get up and moving is helpful," Simons-Morton says. "No wonder we have an obesity epidemic -- we have a sedentary lifestyle. We sit all day at work, then watch TV and play video games. We were not designed to function in that type of environment, and it's killing us."