If a stroll from the parking lot into a favorite department store is your idea of exercise, you’re probably not active enough, experts say. This time of year, especially, it’s important to engage in daily physical activity and eat well to stay healthy.

“Regular exercise is one of the foundations of a healthy lifestyle. It helps control body weight, protects against a variety of diseases, contributes to lowering blood pressure, and improves overall health,” says Dr. Kyon Hood, President of Teladoc Physicians.

By boosting circulation, exercise may even help improve your body’s immune system, Dr. Hood says, increasing your natural ability to fight off infection. The more you move, the less often you get sick.

If healthy holidays and getting fit are part of your seasonal agenda, then read on. With regular exercise you can become strong and happy—a resolution worth working for!

What kind of exercise should I do, and how much?

A recent research study showed that a lifetime of exercise helped people maintain muscle mass, lower body fat and cholesterol, and improve immune function, helping them fight off infection.1 But before you start an exercise regimen, consult with a physician to make sure it’s safe.

So exactly how much movement is needed to reap the benefits? For healthy adults, Dr. Hood suggests aerobic or “cardio” activities most days: at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.2 “A combination of moderate and vigorous movement is very beneficial,” he says.

Examples of moderate aerobic activities are brisk walking, swimming, or mowing the lawn. Vigorous exercises include running and aerobic dancing. Strength training may involve weight machines, exercises using your own body weight, resistance tubing, resistance paddles in the water, or outdoor activities like rock climbing, Dr. Hood says.

It’s also important to perform strength exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week. “I’d recommend doing a single set of each exercise, using a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12-15 repetitions,” Dr. Hood says.

“But what If I’m not an ‘exercise person’?”

All this training sounds well and good, but if you’re inactive, overweight, or feeling out of shape, a workout regimen can be daunting. The key is committing to movement, increasing it over time, and making it part of your daily routine—even when it’s wintertime and you’re swamped with holiday to-do’s.

A study in the American Journal of Medicine showed that women who walked for just a half-hour every day for a year had half the number of colds as those who didn’t exercise. Researchers think that regular walking may lead to a higher number of white blood cells, which fight infections.3

If walking isn’t your thing, start with something you enjoy like dancing, playing a sport, or listening to podcasts on a stationary bike. You don’t have to run marathons or bulk up like a bodybuilder to reap the benefits of exercise. Think creatively about what type of exercise or environment is enjoyable to you. If you’re not someone who enjoys group activities or fun in nature, try moving your body in front of your favorite show on Netflix.

“A reasonable goal is to aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day,” Dr. Hood says. He suggests these simple ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine:

  • Stand up to take phone calls.
  • Stretch at your desk.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Use your lunch break to go to the gym or explore outdoors.
  • Ride your bike to work.
  • Walk to your coworkers to ask questions instead of emailing them.
  • Engage clients with activities like golf or social fitness classes.
  • Play with your pets or children (they need the exercise, too!).
  • Park your car as far as possible from the entrances of work and stores.
  • Plan family weekend activities like bowling, bike rides, or hikes instead of movie or dining events.

Team up with a buddy who can help with motivation. Track your progress on paper or through a fitness app to see how much you’re improving! Before long, you’ll notice the benefits of increased physical activity and your new endeavor will become a good health habit you won’t ever want to shake.

If you’re not feeling well this season, our extensive network of U.S. board-certified physicians is available on demand, 24/7. Even if you’re traveling, you can reach us by app, web, or phone about specific symptoms or your overall condition. Sign in now to request a visit with one of our licensed doctors. Hopefully, good health will be a present to open this holiday season!

References

1https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/acel.12750
2https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/pdf/PAG_ExecutiveSummary.pdf
3https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/exercise-when-you-have-cold#1

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