By now, we know exercising should be a regular part of our routine. The new Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans — released in 2018 by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion — advises adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise each week. If you can double those numbers, even better. We know, 150 minutes sounds like a lot, but remember: There are 10,080 minutes in a week, so exercising for 150 minutes only takes 1.5% of your week.
Here are nine realistic and clearly defined tweaks to your fitness routine that’ll make a big difference in your overall health:
ALWAYS WARM UP AND COOL DOWN
It can be tempting to knock out a 30-minute workout and call it a day. But try to find a few extra minutes to warm up and cool down, and you’ll not only feel better, you’ll enjoy a more effective workout. Do a warmup that incorporates dynamic moves — think jumping jacks, high knees and air squats — rather than static holds. The more traditional stretches can come at the end of your workout, once your body is warmed up.
STRENGTH TRAIN AT LEAST TWICE PER WEEK
Resistance workouts build muscle, burn fat and promote better bone density. Plan for at least two strength-training sessions per week to reap the benefits. These count toward your 150 minutes of exercise. Because muscle burns calories at rest, the more you build, the more calories you’ll burn throughout the day.
ADD INTERVALS TO YOUR STEADY-STATE CARDIO
Steady-state cardio like jogging on a treadmill or pedaling an exercise bike at a consistent speed is a good, low-impact exercise that can help you build endurance. But if you’ve noticed plateaus or can’t seem to lose any weight, it’s time to mix things up with high-intensity intervals. This doesn’t mean you should stop jogging if that’s what you love to do. Just try incorporating intervals on your run to keep your workouts fresh, and watch how your body responds.
Exercising outdoors is associated with improved mood and energy, reduced stress and greater satisfaction. It also helps you soak up precious vitamin D via sunlight. So, take at least one of those workouts outside each week to enjoy the elements, and you might feel even better.
START YOUR DAY WITH MOBILITY DRILLS
Simple mobility moves like hip and shoulder rotations and cat-cow stretches promote joint and spine health. Doing so doesn’t require too much time, either. Find five minutes in your day, and you can increase flexibility, mobility and durability to help keep you moving comfortably as you age.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR SOFT TISSUE
You might have a foam roller hiding in your closet or a lacrosse ball stuffed into a drawer. Well, now’s the time to take them out, because they can work wonders on your soft tissue. Rolling your quads, calves, IT bands and other problem areas before a workout can break up adhesions and hydrate the muscles, which can, in turn, improve mobility and lessen discomfort during and after exercise.
STAND UP AT LEAST ONCE PER HALF HOUR
If you’ve got an active job that keeps you moving, great. But for those of us with sedentary desk jobs, all that time in a chair can wreak havoc on our health. In fact, research shows a link between excessive sitting and all-cause mortality. So, set a reminder on your phone or computer to stand up for a few minutes every half hour, and you can avoid some of that damage.
FOLLOW A REGULAR SLEEP SCHEDULE
Most people need 7–9 hours of sleep each night. Get too little sleep, and it can lead to weight gain, diminish your immune system and impair cognitive function. It can also sabotage all that hard work you’ve been putting in at the gym, as your muscles need rest to repair themselves and grow. So try going to bed at the same time each night, and shoot for about 8 solid hours of shuteye.
EAT BREAKFAST EVERY DAY
When you’re running out the door, making breakfast might be the last thing on your mind. But if you can eat something in the morning, you’ll have more energy throughout the day — and that might give you the extra push you need to get into the gym. Breakfast doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate. Scrambled eggs and a piece of whole-wheat toast or some oatmeal topped with berries does the trick.