Physical wellness can be a launching pad to help you spring energetically into the warmer months. While it can be a year-round priority, Physical Wellness Month is celebrated in April, making pointers on physical activity especially timely.
According to TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), physical wellness involves a healthy lifestyle that allows people to experience daily activities without undue fatigue or physical stress. TOPS emphasizes that, regardless of weight, everyone can benefit from movement and balanced nutrition. Rather than dictating one single approach to becoming physically active, TOPS encourages members to seek sound advice and provide support to each other to establish their own exercise program.
Many TOPS members from across the country rely on walking to become active. Because walking even a short distance is attainable for most, members can gain a feeling of accomplishment. John Gillespie, a TOPS member, speaks for many when he says, “I used to walk four to five blocks a day. Now I can do four to five miles a day.”_ John has lost 95 pounds.
Garnette Brunett, another TOPS member, says, “I started to really get into walking my dog. It was easy, and I saw results immediately.” She has lost 38 pounds.
Amy Goldwater, M.S., educator, former body-building champion, and physical fitness expert for TOPS, points out another benefit of physical activity: endorphins. Exercise puts necessary stress on your body, triggering endorphins.
“These are extremely important and can make you feel wonderful,” Goldwater says. “It’s the body’s natural exercise high that might also be referred to as ‘being in the zone’ or ‘having a second wind.’ The timing is individual. Endorphins will kick in sooner during a workout for some people and later for others.”
Goldwater offers ten tips to increase physical wellness:
- Start an activity slowly to increase the odds of sticking to it. Easy choices — such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator – can burn a few extra calories. To begin, Goldwater advises, take the elevator up and walk down.
- Make activity a daily routine. Set a time and keep a regular rhythm. Goldwater recommends exercising when personal energy is the highest. For instance, morning people should schedule their activity early in the day.
- Goldwater encourages people to vary their workouts, especially when lifting weights. She says it’s very important to let muscles recover by cross-training, which uses different muscle groups.
- She advises extending the length of time spent walking rather than increasing the speed of walking. Movement gets the heart pumping and oxygen flowing to the brain, which is the desirable body state to sustain. So remember: Longer is better than faster.
- Enjoy spring fever. Go outside to walk, jog, bike, roller-blade, garden, walk the dog, or play tennis.
- Breathe in fresh air by simply being outdoors. Goldwater points out that fresh air adds oxygen to the body and improves anyone’s energy level.
- Get enough sleep on a regular schedule. Goldwater says 7.5 hours is often recommended, with a standard sleeping and waking cycle.
- When walking, Goldwater advises, aim for an activity level between 6 and 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. If walkers can chat easily, they need to pick up some speed, but if they can’t talk at all because they’re out of breath, they need to slow down.
- Keep an achievement log of physical activity, listing miles, pace, and progress. Goldwater says meticulous recordkeeping might be overwhelming for some, but even a simple chart is useful.
- Reward accomplishments. Incentives along the way can add motivation to stick to a goal. Goldwater notes that any activity you do will get you on the road to becoming physically fit. You can even do chair aerobics. Also, she emphasizes, it’s never too late to start.
TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the original, nonprofit weight-loss education and support organization, was founded more than 60 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success. Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wis., TOPS promotes successful weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness education, and support from others at weekly chapter meetings. TOPS has about 170,000 members in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada, and several chapters in Europe.
Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, view www.tops.org or call 800.932.8677 for more information.