How to: add physical fitness to your life to improve your health
Add Physical Fitness to Your Life to Improve Your Health
Did you, like many of us, set new goals with the new year revolving around physical fitness and improving your health – whether by diet, shedding a few pounds, or even exercising more?
Momentum is strong at first and may dwindle over time, and that sense of new that so sparked one’s excitement gets lost in the wilderness of life. Perhaps that loss of momentum brings up shortcomings in your past physical fitness ventures and discourages you from trying again, and the next thing you know you are part of the 76.8% of U.S. adults over the age of 18 that do not meet the physical activity guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity. 
But be encouraged; you don’t need to succumb to that statistic, past failures, or even a new year to help tackle your physical fitness goals. Every day is a new opportunity. Be reminded of what Isaiah 43:18-19 declares: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
Jesus is doing a new thing daily in your life, and that doesn’t exclude your health and physical fitness. Paul declares to the church of Corinth, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20 ESV). This begs the question: how do we take care of the bodies God gave us while navigating the rivers of life? How do I add physical fitness to my life?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), “Physical fitness is defined as a set of attributes that people have or achieve that relates to the ability to perform physical activity. It is also characterized by (1) an ability to perform daily activities with vigor, and (2) a demonstration of traits and capacities that are associated with a low risk of premature development of hypokinetic diseases (e.g., those associated with physical inactivity).” 
Physical fitness is actually comprised of two subcategories: health-related physical fitness and skill-related physical fitness, or physical fitness that helps your performance in sports or activities that require elevated motor skills. Health-related physical fitness can reduce your risk of chronic disease (i.e., heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers), promote good health and wellness, and is comprised of body composition, cardiorespiratory endurance, flexibility, muscular endurance, power, and strength. That’s an exhausting list, and you may be asking, “how do I know what to do?”
The ACSM recommends the following guidelines for adults to improve cardiovascular health and muscular endurance and strength:
- For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate intensity (i.e., brisk walking or slow bike riding)
- or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., jogging, running, fast bike riding or swimming).
- Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on two or more days a week.
Now that you have a better understanding of what physical fitness actually is and what the ACSM recommends, here are six tips that will help add physical fitness to your life to improve your health.
- Select an activity that you enjoy. Fitness does not have to be a burden. It will relieve stress and release neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin and improve mood.
- Put blinders on and stay in your lane. Meaning, don’t worry about what anyone else thinks or compare yourself to others’ fitness journey. Remember, everyone started somewhere.
- Consistency. If you miss a day of exercise, don’t fret. Physical fitness is a journey of 1,000 miles and achieved one day at a time. Even if you stumble, stumbling is still moving forward.
- Break up the 30-minute ACSM recommendation. You don’t have to perform 30 minutes of moderate activity in one session. You can break that 30 minutes up throughout the day. A good starting point would be a 10-12-minute walk after every meal. Not only will this help achieve the 30-minute goal but will naturally lower blood sugars that were elevated from your meal.
- Community. Exercise with a friend, your co-workers, find a gym, or fitness class. Being active with a friend or a community will keep you on track both for the short-term and long-term. You weren’t designed to do life alone, so why should your physical fitness be any different?
- Keep track of your goals and activity. Whether it’s a journal, smart watch, or app; keep track of your plan and progress. This will keep you accountable and keep you heading in the right direction.
Anthony Mack is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and is an assistant professor of kinesiology.