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Healthy New Year

Tips for a Healthy New Year

Surgeon General VADM Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA, joins the director of the National Institute on Aging, executive director of the White House Conference on Aging, fitness expert Donna Richardson, Go4Life® partner organizations, and older adults for a fitness walk in the nation's capital to celebrate Go4Life Month last September and to highlight Step It Up! The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities.
Photos courtesy of National Institute on Aging

Follow Surgeon General's advice on benefits of walking to boost your fitness

As you ring out the old year and ring in the new, you may be considering changes you'd like to make to improve your health in the upcoming months. If you're thinking about making exercise a part of your New Year's resolution, you might be glad to know that small changes in your routine can lead to big results. In fact, the key to improving your overall health and preventing chronic diseases may be as simple as adding just 22 minutes of physical activity—such as brisk walking—to your day.

Time to Take Action and Move

According to a recent U.S. Surgeon General's Report, less than half of all U.S. adults get enough physical activity each day to reduce their risk of developing a chronic disease—including diabetes, cancer, or heart and lung disease. What's more, only a quarter of high schoolers were found to get the recommended daily amount.

To combat these low rates, Surgeon General VADM Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA, has issued a Call to Action to encourage individuals to make walking a priority in their daily lives. Step It Up! The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities endorses walking as a safe, affordable, and effective way for everyone to exercise. This Call to Action also encourages local community leaders to maintain public spaces so that people can walk in an environment that is safe and accessible for all.

Ready, Set, Go!

Whether your New Year's resolution includes walking or another form of physical activity, continue reading for more tips on how and why you should incorporate physical fitness into your daily life for the upcoming year. Need a motivational boost? Start by downloading the Surgeon General's walking playlist on Pandora at and get moving!

Know the Basics

Regular physical activity can help prevent chronic diseases, but there are many other health benefits you can achieve by getting your daily dose of physical activity. For example, exercise can help:

  • Control your weight
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • Improve your mental health and mood
  • Improve your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls, especially if you're an older adult
  • Increase your chances of living longer

Target Exercise Amounts

How much physical activity you need depends on your age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends:

  • Children ages 6 to 17 years old should get 60 minutes of physical activity each day. This should also include a vigorous-intensity activity (such as running) three days per week, and muscle strengthening (such as gymnastics) three days per week.
  • Adults ages 18 and older should get 150 minutes of moderateintensity activity (such as brisk walking), or 75 minutes of vigorousintensity activity (such as running), each week. Adults should also do muscle-strengthening exercises that work all muscle groups two days per week.

Fitting exercise into your daily life may seem tough at first, but according to the CDC, you don't have to do it all at once. In fact, exercising in 10-minute increments can be enough to reap the health benefits.

Tips for Getting Started

If you think fitting in a daily workout is expensive, think again! You don't need a costly gym membership to jumpstart an active lifestyle. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends simply picking an activity you enjoy. Start by listing the activities you would like to do, like walking, joining a sports league, exercising with a video, dancing, biking, or taking a class at a fitness or community center. Then, you can start to plan your workout schedule. For example:

  • Set short-term goals that are specific and that you can track. Instead of saying "I'm going to be more active this week," set a goal of walking 30 minutes a day, three days a week.
  • Think of the days and times you could do the activity, such as first thing in the morning, during lunch break from work, after dinner, or on Saturday afternoon. Look at your calendar or planner to find the days and times that work best, and commit to those plans.

Keeping Active at Work

When you're looking to add more physical activity to your routine, it's important to practice healthy habits at work, as well as at home. For you, this might mean simply moving more at your workplace. The CDC encourages the following activities to keep you moving at work:

  • Print to a different printer. Try printing to a printer located further away from your work area. Consider printing one floor up or down and take the stairs.
  • Take the stairs rather than the elevator.
  • Park at a remote parking lot and walk to the office. The further away you park, the more activity you can include in your day.
  • Walk and talk. Have a walking meeting or step in place while talking on the phone.
  • Start meetings with five to 10 minutes of stretching or activity, or add in stretch or activity time mid-way through long meetings.
  • Do 60- to 90-second standing breaks for every hour you sit.
  • Keep a set of hand weights by your desk. Use them three or four times a day for muscle strengthening.

In addition, many employers offer weight management programs and on-site fitness programs to encourage and support employees with establishing and maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors. These programs can offer even more opportunities for you to engage in healthy workplace activities.

Read More "Healthy New Year" Articles

Tips for a Healthy New Year / Fitness for Those with Disabilities and Older Adults

Winter 2016 Issue: Volume 10 Number 4 Page 8-9