“A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step” – Confucius
The journey to becoming healthier can seem like a thousand miles away. But as Confucius emphasized, any seemingly insurmountable task starts with the first step. Your road to fitness involves the same notion. By simply taking that first step, you’ll find that it doesn’t require any special equipment or skill; just a bit of determination to reach your goals.
Where Do I Begin?
Walking is probably the simplest and most practical form of exercise. It can be done just about anywhere, requires no equipment, money or skill, and yet reaps all the benefits of any other cardiovascular-type activity such as:
- Reducing LDL cholesterol (“the bad cholesterol”)
- Lowering blood pressure
- Improving flexibility and coordination
- Decreasing body fat
- Relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Strengthening bones
- Decreasing your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers
Participation in some form of regular activity may not only improve your quality of life, but may also add quantity to your years. The life expectancy of individuals who engage in activities like walking are believed to be significantly higher than those who tend to lead more sedentary lives.
Rounding Out Your Existing Routine
Besides walking which is a cardiovascular activity, there are two other main categories which include resistance (strength training), and flexibility. Whereas cardiovascular exercises focuses on moving larger muscle groups and heart rate elevation over a period of time such as in running, swimming, or bicycling, both strength and flexibility training have a different focus.
Strength training focuses on the repeated movement of isolated muscle groups using either external weights or one’s own body weight as resistance. It’s extremely helpful by preventing muscle loss through the aging or weight reduction process. It’s also a great tool to drive vital minerals back into the bone to minimize bone loss; which by the way affects both men and women. But here’s the best part, your body composition is largely responsible for your metabolic rate. The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism. Teenage boys are a prime example of this. But what does this really mean to us? Simply that if your goal is to lose weight, it’s going to be less of an uphill battle to not only lose but maintain your loss if you are able to keep as much muscle mass as possible in the process.
Finally, the last category of exercise is flexibility. The first thing we usually think of here is yoga. And yes, yoga is certainly a flexibility exercise which can be done with little equipment other than a good mat. However, there are other simple stretches that one can do each day to help with flexibility. The biggest advantage in flexibility exercises has to do with injury prevention. The more flexible you are, the less likely you’ll be to injure yourself from over pulled or strained muscles which can (and usually does) derail any fitness routine.
Remember to warm up no matter what the exercise, never stretch a cold muscle, and repeat the motions smoothly. And, if you’ve been working out for a while, you undoubtedly know the importance of changing up your routine to get the maximum benefit. One of the most common things I see as a personal trainer is a concentration on one or two “favorite” exercises. Avid runners are a good example. Those who run on a regular basis often report not feeling like they’ve had a good enough workout unless they run. Therefore, they tend to run (an obvious cardiovascular activity) most of the time while avoiding activities that involve the other two fitness categories namely strength and flexibility.
Go On- Take a Chance
It’s natural to gravitate towards things that you feel skilled in doing. It gives us a sense of accomplishment and pride. By the same token, we often avoid activities that challenge us or perhaps make us feel clumsy or awkward. But if you step out of your comfort zone so to speak and take that first step, you just may find that a little variety can make a big impact on your overall health goals.