Begin a New Year with a Physical Activity Plan to Improve Health
Tuesday, December 13, 2022
The start of a new year is a time when many people decide to make positive changes in their lives. For those interested in living a healthier lifestyle, they make a goal for themselves to become more physically active.
Jenni Klufa, Oklahoma State University Extension associate state specialist for youth programs, said physical activity is good for all ages.
“Being physically active is one of the best things you can do to improve your overall health both immediately and long-term,” Klufa said. “Some of the immediate benefits of physical activity for adults include improved sleep quality, reduced feelings of anxiety and reduced blood pressure.”
There are numerous long-term benefits of regular physical activity, too, including reducing the risk of dementia, improving bone health, reducing the risk of weight gain and lowering the risk of certain types of cancer. Physical activity can also lower a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Klufa said Oklahoma residents have high rates of many of these chronic diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oklahomans lead the nation with heart disease being the number one cause of preventable death.
“Sometimes people think they have to spend hours a day exercising to reap the benefits, but that’s not true. For adults, moderate-intensity exercise as little as 30 minutes five times per week is all it takes,” she said. “You don’t have to join a gym or even have any fancy equipment at home to start down your path to better health.”
Where should you start? Walking for 30 minutes is beneficial. Any activity that increases your heart rate will count toward this goal. Do you like to dance? Put on some music and dance around the house.
One obstacle many people say they face is simply being too tired to be physically active. One way to overcome this roadblock is to schedule your exercise around the time of day when you feel energetic. Try getting up 30 minutes earlier to squeeze in a quick walk or workout. If time is limited in the morning, consider a walk during your lunch break at work. If it helps, break the 30 minutes into two or three shorter sessions. Another option to help you stay motivated is to join a class or find an accountability partner.
“Understandably, parents of young children are busy with their families, but remember, kids benefit from exercise, too. Children who are physically active regularly tend to sleep better, do better in school, get sick less often and have stronger bones and muscles,” Klufa said. “Another positive aspect of physical activity is it can reduce the risk of depression. Getting your kids involved in your physical activity is a great way to spend time together. Plus, being physically active early in life leads to a greater chance of it becoming a life-long habit, which will be helpful throughout the aging process.”
Children ages 3 through 5 years need to be regularly active throughout the entire day. Children and adolescents ages 6 through 17 need to be active for at least 60 minutes every day of the week.