So You Want to Start Exercising?

ExercisingNo doubt you have heard of all the health benefits of exercise: weight loss, improved body composition, improved mood, improved stress levels, decreased risk for osteoporosis, and decreased risk for prostate, breast, colon, and endometrial cancers. Exercise also helps to control blood glucose and improves HDL cholesterol levels. HDL cholesterol, considered the “good cholesterol”, helps to clear the LDL or “bad cholesterol” from the arteries, preventing blockages. HDL cholesterol can also help repair damaged blood vessel walls, contributing even more to your heart health.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that the general population partake in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, and the American Cancer Society (ACS) agrees. That equates to about 30-60 minutes three times each week. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has similar recommendations of 30 minutes per day for cancer survivors. AICR also suggests starting out slow with around 10-15 minutes per day for those new to exercise or experiencing fatigue. However, this could be higher or lower depending on your age, activity level, or health status.

Despite all the benefits from exercise, a 2011 survey published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 80% of Americans do not get the recommended amount of exercise. This is not surprising though, considering the average work week is about 47 hours, and almost 40% of Americans work 50+ hours per week (according to a 2013-2014 Gallup poll). This does not include school, family obligations, or leisure time. So with all these responsibilities, how can you possibly find the time to exercise?

With the new year coming, many will add exercise to their resolutions without a plan to really make it happen. Try these tips to set yourself up for success:

Break it Up

If 30 minutes sounds too daunting for you, or you don’t even have a continuous 30 minutes throughout the day, break it up. Try to complete three 10 minute sessions each day. If you can only complete one 10 minute session each day, remember that some is better than none.

Increase Steps

When going to work, restaurants, and stores, park further away. As long as it is safe and you are physically able, park further away and increase your steps without having to set aside time in the day. Always choose the stairs over an elevator or escalator when possible. These small changes to your daily routine could make an impact.

Find a Friend

Find a friend, coworker, or family member who can exercise with you. Not only does the buddy system promote accountability, but it could increase the fun factor. This could be as simple as grabbing a coworker or two at lunch for a relaxing walk around campus, or an after dinner walk with family or friends.

Set a Schedule

Try exercising at the same time, and set a schedule for yourself. It may be difficult at first, but if you stick with it, it will become part of your normal routine.


Are you waiting for water to boil while cooking dinner? Try completing some body weight squats. Are you enjoying your favorite TV show at the end of the day? Do 5-10 pushups or jumping jacks at a commercial break. Find a friend or family member to create a friendly competition.

Increase Intensity, Decrease Time

If you want a full work out, but don’t have the time, try high-intensity interval training, or tabata workouts. These incorporate very intense sessions of exercise with short periods of rest and can be done in as little as ten minutes. Of course, you should always consult your doctor before participating in any new or strenuous exercise program.

Try some of these suggestions to increase daily activity. Remember to create SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time oriented. Once you reach your goal, make another. Do not increase exercise time by more than 10% each week to help reduce the risk of injury. Always consult your doctor before beginning or changing an exercise routine or diet.

About the author: Margaret Merlie is a second year graduate student in Drexel University’s Department of Nutrition Sciences and will earn her Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition in June 2015. She previously earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Science from Shippensburg University. For the past three years, Margaret has been working as a corporate health screening provider to help employees “know their numbers” and create ways to fit health and fitness into an often times hectic life schedule. She enjoys helping others work towards their nutrition and fitness goals.

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