If your doctor has asked you to increase your physical activity level in order to help improve your cholesterol levels, you might be wondering where to start. The idea of exercising more to lose weight and lower cholesterol can be intimidating for a lot of people. But you don’t have to jump right into exercising vigorously for an hour a day or more — in fact, it’s best if you don’t.
If you’re not accustomed to exercising, you need to ease into an exercise regime slowly and work your way up to exercising for at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week. Ask your doctor for advice to start exercising safely.
Many people who are beginning an exercise routine find it’s easier to get in a full 30 minutes of exercise if they break that time up into two or three shorter periods of activity. Keep yourself motivated by choosing physical activities you enjoy, finding workout buddies, and taking it easy on yourself when you don’t meet your goals.
It’s especially important to take care when starting a new exercise routine if you’re not in the habit of exercising regularly. Push yourself too hard, and you could do yourself injury or even increase your risk of a cardiovascular event. Instead of leaping right into a strenuous exercise routine, start slow and gradually increase your activity level.
Find Little Ways to Fit More Movement into Your Routine
If you get creative, it’s not hard to fit a little extra activity into your daily routine. Activities like cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, doing yard work or gardening, or washing the car count as exercise, though you may not be able to do these things every day.
Other ways to incorporate more movement into your daily life include taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work, playing outside with your kids, walking the dog, playing video games that incorporate dancing or other movements, taking a walk during your lunch break, or doing so-called couchersizing while you watch TV.
If the thought of exercising fills you with gloom, it might be because you’re operating under the common misconception that exercise has to be something you suffer through rather than enjoy.
Change your perspective by finding physical activities you enjoy. You might despise jogging, but love tennis; you might hate dancing, but would love to make more time to swim. You might have to try some different activities to find some things you look forward to doing again and again, but the more you enjoy your exercise routine, the more likely you will be to stick with it.
Vary Your Routine
Switching up your exercise routine serves dual purposes — it keeps you from getting bored, and it helps you get more out of your workout. As your body begins to get used to a particular exercise, it becomes less effective. In order to get the most benefit from your exercise routine, you have to change things up regularly so that your body continues working as hard as possible to burn calories and build muscle.
Varying your routine also helps ensure that you’ll stay motivated. No matter how much you enjoy a particular physical activity, you can still get bored with it if you do it often enough. Find two or three activities that you enjoy, and make sure your routine consists of a combination of aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility training.
If you’re like most people, you’re more likely to stick with an exercise program if you turn working out into a social activity. It’s easy to skip exercising if you’re doing it alone, but a workout buddy gives you more of a reason to show up at the gym. Exercise classes serve the same purpose. If you like a little healthy competition, join an adult sports team or find a tennis partner. You can even use exercise as an excuse to spend time with family members and improve the health of your spouse and children while getting in shape yourself.
Don’t Beat Yourself up When You Veer off-Track
Staying motivated to keep up an exercise routine over the long term is one of the hardest parts of maintaining a healthy level of physical activity. Life is long and even the most dedicated exercisers fall out of the habit of exercising regularly sometimes. That’s why medications like Lipitor and Zetia are such an important part of managing high cholesterol — they help pick up the slack when life gets in the way of your exercise routine.
When bad weather, the holidays, a vacation, a bout of illness, or some other life circumstance causes you to stray from your regular exercise habits, don’t beat yourself up. There’s no point in feeling guilty or berating yourself for falling behind on your exercise goals. Instead, think about what you’ll need to do to get back on track. Motivate yourself by remembering the things you liked about exercising. If it helps, offer yourself a reward, such as a new book by your favorite author, a trip to the movies, or some other treat. Remember that you may not be capable of exercising as hard as you were before your lapse, and that’s okay.
Regular exercise can be a vital part of keeping your high cholesterol under control, and making exercise a part of your daily life may be easier than you think. Start slow and gradually work your way up to exercising for half an hour or more, five or more days a week. Soon you’ll be so used to exercising daily that you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.