The Lazy Person's Exercise Plan
By now we all know the dangers of eating too much and
exercising too little: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc. But even in a
society as obsessed with slimness as ours, most of us would rather have a root
canal than hit the gym. Well, couch potatoes, take heart! Experts now say that
effective exercise can be incorporated into daily life so easily, even the most
exercise-phobic among us can shape up.
"The recommendations for physical activity have changed
drastically. They make it easier for the general public to achieve the correct
levels of exercise because it includes such everyday activities as cleaning
house and walking," says Regina L. Tan, DVM, MS, a CDC officer at the
Georgia Division of Public Health. After the guidelines were changed from
"20 minutes of vigorous activity 3 days per week" to "30 minutes of
moderate activity 5 or more days per week," a new questionnaire for
assessing activity levels was devised, based on those changes. Tan and
colleagues set out to determine whether the new questionnaire offered an
accurate means of assessing physical activity levels, and whether those levels
had increased since the guidelines were revised.
For inactive people, doing any kind of activity will benefit
their health. The American Heart Association recommends that inactive people
gradually work up to exercising three to four times a week for 30-60 minutes at
50%-80 % of their maximal heart rate.
Tan's team polled more than 2,000 adult Georgia residents using
both the old and new surveys.
"With the new questionnaire, it does look like the average
amount of physical activity has increased somewhat," she tells WebMD.
"We are, however, still investigating the accuracy of the survey, and the
bottom line is that the increase, even if it's real, is very slight. Adults in
the United States are just not getting enough physical activity, period. We are
getting bigger and bigger."
The No. 1 problem, says Tan, is that most of us have very
"We sit at a desk all day long." To stay fit and slim,
"you have to overcompensate for that, especially since a lot of what we're
eating isn't all that healthy."
But we're not overcompensating. Instead, we're coming home from
a day of sitting at the office computer only to sit some more -- at our home
computer, in front of the TV, and at the dinner table.
No, you don't have to start training for a marathon. The
difference between getting healthy and becoming a statistic "is increasing
your activity level gradually, maybe by 20% a week. That will get you up to the
recommended levels before too long," says Tan.
How to do it? The following options can be just as effective as
jumping jacks, jogging trails, or high-priced gyms:
- Don't use elevators or escalators; instead, take the stairs. Start with one
such substitution a day, and build up slowly. So you work on the 50th floor?
Ride up to 48 and walk up from there. Careful, though -- walking down
stairs can be hard on your knees. Walk up, but ride down.
- Stop circling parking lots and fighting for the closest spot. Park a little
bit farther away from the office or mall, and walk. You'll not only increase
fitness, you'll decrease stress.
- If you take the bus or subway, get off one or two stops early and walk the
rest of the way.
- Vacuum more often, change the sheets more often, mop the floor more often.
These get your heart pumping, which means they are excellent calorie
- Cold and snowy where you live? Shovel it, walk your dog in it, build an
igloo with your kids. The activity will not only boost your fitness levels, it
will help keep you warm!