Mind and body exercise

Your local hospital or fitness, recreation, or community center may offer classes such as yoga, tai chi, or Pilates. You also may find some of these workouts online and can download them to a computer, smart phone, or other device. These types of activities may help you:

  • become stronger and more flexible
  • feel more relaxed
  • improve balance and posture

These classes also can be a lot of fun and add variety to your workout routine. If some movements are hard to do or you have injuries you are concerned about, talk with the instructor about how to adapt the exercises and poses to meet your needs—or start with a beginner’s class.

Here is the first of our week of stretches:

Make physical activity part of your life

You don’t need to be an athlete or have special skills or equipment to make physical activity part of your life. Many types of activities you do every day, such as walking your dog or going up and down steps at home or at work, may help improve your health.

Try different activities you enjoy. If you like an activity, you’re more likely to stick with it. Anything that gets you moving around, even for a few minutes at a time, is a healthy start to getting fit.

Walking

Walking is free and easy to do—and you can do it almost anywhere. Walking will help you

  • burn calories
  • improve your fitness
  • lift your mood
  • strengthen your bones and muscles

If you are concerned about safety, try walking in a shopping mall or park where it is well lit and other people are around. Many malls and parks have benches where you can take a quick break. Walking with a friend or family member is safer than walking alone and may provide the social support you need to meet your activity goals.

If you don’t have time for a long walk, take several short walks instead. For example, instead of a 30-minute walk, add three 10-minute walks to your day. Shorter spurts of activity are easier to fit into a busy schedule.

If you don’t have time for a long walk, take several short walks instead.

Walking tips

  • Wear comfortable, well-fitting walking shoes with a lot of support, and socks that absorb sweat.
  • Dress for the weather if you are walking outdoors. In cold weather, wear layers of clothing you can remove if you start getting too warm. In hot weather, protect yourself against the sun and heat.
  • Warm up by walking more slowly for the first few minutes. Cool down by slowing your pace.

Workout clothing tips

  • Clothes made of fabrics that absorb sweat are best for working out.
  • Comfortable, lightweight clothes allow you to move more easily.
  • Tights or spandex shorts are the best bottoms to wear to prevent inner-thigh chafing.
  • Women should wear a bra that provides extra support during physical activity.

Choosing physical activities that match your needs

Choosing physical activities that match your fitness level and health goals can help you stay motivated and keep you from getting hurt. You may feel some minor discomfort or muscle soreness when you first become active. These feelings should go away as you get used to your activity. However, if you feel sick to your stomach or have pain, you may have done too much. Go easier and then slowly build up your activity level. Some activities, such as walking or water workouts, are less likely to cause injuries.

If you have been inactive, start slowly and see how you feel. Gradually increase how long and how often you are active. If you need guidance, check with a health care or certified fitness professional.

Here are some tips for staying safe during physical activity:

  • Wear the proper safety gear, such as a bike helmet if you are bicycling.
  • Make sure any sports equipment you use works and fits properly.
  • Look for safe places to be active. For instance, walk in well-lit areas where other people are around. Be active with a friend or group.
  • Stay hydrated to replace the body fluids you lose through sweating and to prevent you from getting overheated.
  • If you are active outdoors, protect yourself from the sun with sunscreen and a hat or protective visor and clothing.
  • Wear enough clothing to keep warm in cold or windy weather. Layers are best.

Stay hydrated to replace the body fluids you lose through sweating.

If you don’t feel right, stop your activity. If you have any of the following warning signs, stop and seek help right away:

  • pain, tightness, or pressure in your chest or neck, shoulder, or arm
  • extreme shortness of breath
  • dizziness or sickness

You can find many fun places to be active. Having more than one place may keep you from getting bored. Here are some options:

  • Join or take a class at a local fitness, recreation, or community center.
  • Enjoy the outdoors by taking a hike or going for a walk in a safe local park, neighborhood, or mall.
  • Work out in the comfort of your own home with a workout video or by finding a fitness channel on your TV, tablet, or other mobile device.

Tips for choosing a fitness center

  • Make sure the center has exercise equipment for people who weigh more and staff to show you how to use it.
  • Ask if the center has any special classes for people just starting out, older adults, or people with mobility or health issues.
  • See if you can try out the center or take a class before you join.
  • Try to find a center close to work or home. The quicker and easier the center is to get to, the better your chances of using it often.

Make sure you understand the rules for joining and ending your membership, what your membership fee covers, any related costs, and the days and hours of operation.

Check with a health care professional about what to do if you have any of these warning signs. If your activity is causing pain in your joints, feet, ankles, or legs, you also should consult a health care professional to see if you may need to change the type or amount of activity you are doing.