How to get fit without a gym

According to data collected in 2012 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 66 percent of adults in Texas are overweight and almost 28 percent are obese.

Rather than posting a set of total body exercises that you can do outside of the gym, I’d like to focus on the concept of ‘physical activity’ to promote a healthy lifestyle based on the national recommendations for physical activity for all age groups.

There is a plethora of information out there about exercise, weight loss, goals, getting in to the gym, decreasing sedentary time (time spent in sitting or time spent not involved in any sort of physical activity), etc., and it can seem overwhelming for someone wondering, what do I need to do to stay ‘fit?’

The national Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that all adults participate in 150 minutes of moderate physical activity weekly and children and teenagers have one hour of activity daily.

But what is moderate physical activity? Some examples of moderate physical activity include: a fast paced walk, chores (vacuuming, mopping, washing the car), gardening, light bicycling, or doubles tennis. 150 minutes may sound like a lot of minutes, but when split up into 10 to 30 minute increments, it adds up quickly!

Keep in mind that moderate-level physical activity for one person may be considered ‘vigorous’ physical activity for another, depending on fitness level. Typical examples of vigorous physical activity include: running, walking briskly up a hill, aerobics, fast cycling, fast swimming, and competitive sports.

The national physical activity guidelines recommend 75 minutes of vigorous activity or 150 minutes of moderate physical activity weekly (or a combination of the two).

Well, how do you know how hard you are working? Try the ‘talk test.’

  • If you are exercising at a moderate activity level, you should be able to talk but not sing.
  • If you are performing vigorous physical activity, you are not able to say more than a few words without stopping to catch your breath.

Don’t like the idea of 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity? That’s okay—try a different strategy. It has been recommended that healthy individuals should walk about 10,000 steps per day.

Try buying a simple pedometer or get some thing a little fancier like an activity tracker that can tell you a plethora of information such as calories burned, number of stairs climbed, steps per day, sleep cycles, etc.

Another easy way to track your physical activity is by getting online and tracking your activity, weight, nutrition, and goals for added benefit.

Still not convinced? Dr. Lee from the Harvard School of Public Health states in The Journal of the American Medical Association:

“Physical activity, while not a drug, can behave like one—it causes many physiological changes in the body (often beneficial for health), helps prevent the development of many chronic diseases, and is a useful adjunct to drug treatment for many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.”

You can get fit without the gym by gradually increasing your levels of physical activity. Find a way to track your physical activity. Make goals, find a fitness buddy, and get out and enjoy the spring weather. Consider active family activities rather than sedentary ones. Take the stairs, park the car further away, or find a new park nearby your house. The list goes on and on.

Together we can change our state and nation’s obesity statistics and live healthier, happier, longer lives.

This blog post was contributed by Rachel Zimmerman, DPT, a physical therapist at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.

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How to get fit without a gym