We all know that exercise is good for us, but according to the American Heart Association, nearly 70 percent of Americans do not get the physical activity they need.
Living an active life is one of the most rewarding gifts you can give yourself and those you love. Simply put, daily physical activity increases your length and quality of life. If you get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day (like brisk walking), five times per week, you can almost guarantee yourself a healthier and more satisfying life while lowering your risks for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Parents, your children need 60 minutes a day — every day — so when you get active, you're also modeling healthy living for the next generation.
If you exercise less than 150 minutes per week, you need to increase your activity level. Regular moderate-intensity physical activity helps keep your heart in good condition.
When you are inactive, you burn fewer calories, you are at higher risk for cholesterol problems, blood sugar and blood pressure problems, and your weight is often harder to manage. If that's not enough, physically active people nearly always report better moods, less stress, more energy and a better outlook on life.
What can you do now?
Make the time. Nearly all of us feel time-crunched and overscheduled. And although anyone can fall into that trap, only you can make your health a priority over life's other demands. Even President Obama sets aside time to exercise. It can be done and only you can say "no" to interruptions and "yes" to your good health.
Start with walking. It's easy, it's social, it requires no special equipment and it works. Just walk fast enough to get your heart rate up. Most of us can expect to cover 2 miles or more in a 30-minute block of time. If 30 minutes seems like an impossible goal, start with less. Some physical activity is always better than none. You can chart your progress as you work your way toward your goals. To increase your physical activity level, try:
Parking farther away from your destination. Taking short, brisk walks throughout the workday, in 10-minute chunks of time. After dinner, bring your dog along for a walk around the neighborhood.
Remember that this amount of activity will help you maintain your weight, but alone it's not enough to cause significant weight loss. For weight loss, a goal of 60-90 minutes per day is recommended. For even more tips to get active, visit the American Heart Association's Web site at Heart.org.
Dr. Alison Bailey is the director of the Gill Heart Institute Cardiac Rehabilitation and Wellness Program.