On the Way to Wellness

By Andy Cook

Embarking on the road to wellness can be challenging, especially if the only road you’re on is the one to and from work, or to and from your children’s school! If you’re looking for new ways to enhance your exercise and wellness routine, perhaps these tips will help:

The Buddy System: One way I’ve found success is by “easing on down the road” with a friend. Partnering with a buddy helps you each stay committed. Whether it’s taking a fitness class, walking with your kids together in strollers, or swimming at the local pool, having a friend ensures accountability, especially when you’re not in the mood to get out and get moving. If the weather isn’t cooperating, head to the local mall and do walking laps from one end to the other.

Move and Groove: Another way to keep  moving is to add music to everyday activities to make time go by faster. Remember how Robin Williams danced with the vacuum cleaner in Mrs. Doubtfire? Put on your favorite music when you have the house to yourself and live it up! Or make it a family affair and see what your “team” can accomplish before the next song comes on. When the activity has a fun element to it, it doesn’t seem like work.

Just Pick a Spot: Here’s a tip that will also save you gas: don’t circle the parking lot at the mall looking for that “perfect” space. Rather, choose to park in the first space you see, and enjoy the walk. Don’t be one of those people driving slowly and following people as they leave the store with their cart in hopes of a “princess parking” space. By the time you do this, you could be in the store already!

Take the Stairs. Even though the elevator is convenient, you’re not burning any calories by just standing in one spot. Make it easy and start by just walking down the steps; all you have to do is lean forward and you’re on your way! (It may even be quicker than waiting for the elevator, too.) Work up to walking up the steps, especially if you live or work on one of the top floors.

Leave the Car at Home: If you live in or near your town center,  walk to the local shops. My friend Sarah and I walk to the Bethlehem Public Library at least twice a month this way. We bring along a tote bag or knapsack if we are planning on returning or taking out any books or DVDs. Our walks are also a nice way to look at neighborhoods we might otherwise not appreciate, and we’ve also gotten a few ideas for landscaping and other home ideas.

Get on the Floor: Are you a “video gamer” or are your kids or grandkids? If yes, join them on the carpet as they play on their Wii or Playstation. These game devices have an amazing assortment of exercise, fitness and sports games that really can boost your heart rate and you’ll even surprise yourself and work up a sweat. As a bonus, you’ll spend some quality fun time with your family.

The Traditional “After-Dinner” Walk: After a nice meal, take a walk with your partner and/or children. Take time to reconnect, share the events of your day, and appreciate the scenery and the company. Put your cell phone on vibrate to reduce distractions. As an added benefit, walking will also help with your digestion.

Pump it Up: Next spring,  consider trading it your gas lawn mower for a classic manual (rotating blade) style. Of course, this may not be practical if you have several  acres to mow; however,  it’s  a “green” option that offers some exercise as well.

Baby Steps: Another way I set myself up for success is by setting a goal of time, not distance. Just because your sibling happens to have ran a marathon , don’t get competitive, but rather focus on yourself. As you keep to your schedule and build up stamina, you’ll see the distance increase (if that’s even an issue for you). If you want to walk for an hour, see how far you get in 30 minutes and then retrace your route. You may discover areas near your home you didn’t know about.

Walk the Dog: No, we’re not talking yo-yos here but rather the traditional activity. Studies show dog owners are more fit because they’re taking Fido out for walks each morning, dinnertime, and evening. If you have children, make it a family “rule” that at least two family members take the dog out for his walk. According to Dr. Pamela Mueller of the Animal Therapy Center in Bethlehem, daily walks are important for physical and mental health of your dog. “Aim for 30 minutes every day for most dogs. However, start slowly: don’t drag your couch potato pup on an immediate three-mile forced march,” she advises. She also suggests that you should “be cautious in hot and especially humid weather, especially if you have a short-nosed dog (e.g. boxer, bulldog, or pug), and make sure you have an appropriate collar and leash for good control.” As an added bonus, parents can model incorporating fitness into everyday tasks, which will help set your kids up for success as they get older.

Paybacks will far exceed the investment, and you may just find yourself enjoying the journey!

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