As I drove home from work last week I was thinking about taking a walk in the warm weather. But the closer I got to home the more I found myself talking myself out of the walk. “I worked hard today so I should just relax and read my book.” However, when I got home, I chose to walk and once I got outside the soft breeze tickled my skin and kept me moving. I was happy to be outside on such a gorgeous night. Exercise doesn’t mean you have to spend hours in the gym trying to burn off calories. I agree that fitness centers are fantastic places to exercise and I encourage women to join them, but there are other ways to have fun while exercising.
Sue Richards, RN and Outreach Specialist of the GrapeVine Project here at the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation, shared excellent facts with me on the benefits of exercising. “Exercise can stave off depression as exercise helps release the ‘good mood’ hormones. Exercise prevents memory loss and dementia as you age,” said Sue. Exercise reduces anxiety and improves other health issues like type II diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Exercise boosts your metabolism and helps you sleep.
“First, find a friend, co-worker or family member that will make you accountable,” suggested Sue. “Set a goal and chart your workouts. If you post your workout chart by the back door, you should see it and be reminded to move. Build in a reward system. For example, after you walk 50 miles, buy yourself new shoes. Those incentives will keep you striving toward your goal.”
Challenge Yourself with a Virtual Exercise Trip
“A fun challenge is to choose a city or country you would like to visit and plan a virtual trip,” said Sue. She explained, “Let’s say you want to visit Alberta, Canada. During the week, keep track of how far you have biked or walked and then mark this with a pin on a large map moving toward your goal city. When your exercise miles reach a city, take time after your workout to research the history of that city. If you have children walking with you, they can learn about plants or animals native to the city. Choose a food that city is famous for, like ribs from St. Louis, and enjoy some ribs. When your trip takes you across the ocean and your pin ends up in the middle of the ocean, read about ocean dwelling animals or a famous sailing trip. If you can only walk a little bit each week, for instance two miles, then have one of your real miles equal twenty miles on your map.” There are no hard and fast rules, make the challenge work for you!
Build Exercise into Your Work Day
Gather some of your co-workers and start a lunch hour walking group. Sue recommends, “To build up your muscles, add some push-ups into your walk. This doesn’t mean to stop and drop on the ground. You can lean up against a tree or fence and push off with your arms. Before you
know it you will have completed 100 push-ups over a few days. On rainy days walk the stairs at work.” Remember every step will keep your heart healthy.
Your Home Can Be Your Gym
Several ideas pop into my mind that will make exercise more fun at home. If you love planting a flower or vegetable garden, make this one of your main exercises. Bending over to weed the garden can build your leg and core muscles.
Your dog needs exercise too, why not do it together? If you don’t have a dog, check to see if your neighbor’s dog needs a walk. Ask neighbors to join in to make it a team effort. Let a different person choose a new route each day to prevent boredom.
If the weather keeps you indoors, keep an exercise DVD on hand, such as a dance or yoga routine. Even if you can’t do every step, you are moving and that’s what counts. Music can be inspiring and bring a smile to your face, as well as keep your heart pumping.
Water Exercise Can Be Your Key to Wellness
Swimming is an excellent exercise for your heart. But if counting laps bores you, join an aqua fitness class. Workouts in the water are less stressful to your joints. Check with your local city pools to find out if they have classes. If this isn’t your idea of fun, hit the lakes. Rent or borrow a canoe or kayak and paddle your way to wellness. Take a twist on water exercise with stand-up paddle boarding. It will help build your core muscles, provide a cardiovascular workout and is a low impact exercise.
Help a Cause with Exercise
Many communities have run/walks on weekends that you can join. Some of these events may be for a specific non-profit fundraiser, but often cities have run/walks during their city celebrations. Organize a group of friends to walk, make some bright colored T-shirts to wear and enjoy the day!
Whatever exercise you choose, check with your doctor before you begin. Stay inspired! Exercise can
give you a new zest for life!
Remember it all begins with a healthy woman…
Sue Ann Thompson is founder and president of the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation (WWHF), a statewide non-profit organization whose mission is to help Wisconsin women and their families reach their healthiest potential. WWHF provides programs and conducts forums
that focus on education, prevention, and early detection; connects individuals to health resources; produces and distributes the most up-to-date health education and resource materials; and, awards grants and scholarships to women health researchers and related community non-profits. To learn more, visit wwhf.org or call 1-800-448-5148.