Living healthy is a common goal for active adults, but getting started can be a real challenge. While there is no single, "right" way of creating a healthy lifestyle, these simple steps will put you on a path toward increasing your activity and taking control of your health.
1. Take a baseline fitness assessment
Before setting goals or diving into an exercise program, take the time to objectively assess your current fitness level. Many fitness centers offer assessments of your strength, flexibility and cardio fitness. You can also test your fitness at home with the Mayo Clinic's online fitness test. It's also a good idea to check with your doctor, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions.
2. Ease into a workout routine
One of the easiest paths to injury is trying to do too much, too soon. Start any new fitness plan slowly. A simple 10 minute walk may be enough for your first day. Add five minutes at a time as the routine becomes easier and you will soon find yourself walking in 45 to 60 minutes sessions. For strength training, begin with just a few reps using your own body weight and increase the program as your strength increases.
3. Vary the intensity from day to day
Alternating between easier and harder workout days is a great way to stay motivated and avoid injury. Challenging workouts push your endurance, while less intense exercise days let your body recover while staying in gentle motion.
4. Find the fun in your workouts
Joining a gym isn't the only way to stay active and healthy. Look for activities that you actually enjoy doing. You'll be more motivated to stick with it, set new goals and have better results if you have fun while working out.
5. Keep it interesting with several activities
Breaking up your week with a variety of activities is a great way to work different muscle groups. Try walking, swimming, aerobics, weight lifting, yoga, Pilates, biking or whatever appeals to you. You can also mix it up with active pastimes like tennis, pickleball, ballroom dancing or gardening.
6. Plan quick options for busy days
Despite your best intentions, there will be days when you don't have time for a full workout. Instead of skipping it altogether, take a quick walk or fit in 10 minutes of sit-ups, leg lifts and other calisthenics.
7. Partner up with a workout buddy or fitness group
Working out with a friend, or small group of friends, adds an extra element of fun. You can motivate each other, cheer on each others' successes and support each other through setbacks or injuries.
8. Try out healthy meals and snacks
You'll see a lot more benefit from your increased activity if you also update your diet. Try taking a healthy cooking class or swapping healthy recipes with friends. Healthy snacks and lots of water throughout the day will also keep you from overeating at mealtimes.
9. Get expert advice from a trainer or physical therapist
Working with a personal trainer can be a great way to tailor the workout routine that is right for you. A personal trainer can show you how to use proper form and teach you how to increase your activity at the right pace. If you have any injuries or chronic conditions, you may want to talk to your doctor about working with a physical therapist to avoid aggravating the problem.
10. Don't overlook the power of relaxation
Your body needs time to rest and recuperate between workouts. In addition to taking it easy on alternating days, you may also want to try rejuvenating spa treatments. Saunas, whirlpools and massages relax your muscles and reduce stress. You may even want to experiment with meditation techniques.
Building a healthy lifestyle doesn't happen overnight. Give yourself time to develop healthy habits and never be afraid to shake up your routine with something new.