Wellness Topic

Getting Active

A physically and mentally active lifestyle may help you feel healthier and happier. Moving around can even help manage (or prevent) many health conditions. Living an active lifestyle isn’t just a physical effort, keeping your mind engaged is also important for overall health.

A man participates in an exercise class.

What You Should Know

There is a difference between activity and exercise.

If the word “exercise” sounds a bit intimidating to you, know that “exercise” and “physical activity” are not the same thing.

  • Exercise is a planned, intense exertion of the body with the end goal being improved physical fitness. Think of running, swimming, daily walking, lifting weights and yoga.
  • Physical activity is not as intense and includes anything that gets you moving, such as vacuuming, dusting, folding laundry or playing with your dog.

People who are active generally experience the following:

Physical benefits

  • Improved muscle and bones strength and endurance
  • Helps with weight management
  • Better mobility, which reduces the risk for falls

Mental benefits 

  • Greater sense of well-being
  • Increased focus and clear thinking
  • Decreased risk for mental  health conditions
  • Improved management of stress, depression and anxiety

Medical benefits 

  • Reduced risk of heart attack, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes
  • Lower blood cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Reduced joint swelling and pain that is often associated with arthritis
  • Protects against many chronic medical condition

Setting short-term, flexible goals can help keep you on the move.

Broad goals like “I’m going to get active this year!” may not get you started. Try setting detailed, short-term goals to keep yourself moving every day. A goal like walking around your house every two hours is both specific and easy to remember.

At the same time, it’s important to stay flexible with your goals. If you need to run an errand or if you’re tired from a previous day’s activities and want to rest, that’s okay. Your plan is just that — a plan. Make it work for you.

Talk to your doctor before getting active.

Everyone’s physical limitations are different. Certain medications can also place restrictions on the types of activities you can safely enjoy. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor to find out what activities are appropriate for you. 

When considering new ways to get active, you’ll want to ask:

  • Are there any special tests I might need to take before starting a new activity?
  • What activities are safe for me to do?
  • Are there any activities I should avoid?
  • How often should I be active and for how long?
  • Should I make any changes to my medication?

How to Get Started

To set yourself up for success, start simple. Think about what you could do today. 

Could you try some of these strategies to be more active at home?

  • Walk around your house a few times a day
  • When folding clothes, put items away one at a time
  • Carry grocery bags into your home one at a time

Could you spend some time outdoors?

  • Invite a friend to go for a walk
  • Spend time gardening
  • Take a break in you daily routine to go outside and to take a few deep breaths 

Could you write down a short-term goal or two?

Writing things down is a great way to keep yourself accountable. Think about how active you are today, and how active you’d like to be. Remember “activity” doesn’t have to mean physical activity – it can mean mental activity, too. 

Could you reward yourself for being more active?

Rewarding yourself as you accomplish your goals is extremely important. You might decide that you’ll walk for ten minutes and then relax with a cup of tea or stretch for five minutes before watching a favorite program. However you decide to treat yourself, remember to be flexible. Don’t be hard on yourself if you need to take a break, or if your plan takes longer than you thought it would. Practice self-compassion, be patient… you’ll get there.


Getting Active Knowledge Check

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