May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, and the second week of May is National Women’s Health Week. The very idea that we “need” to exercise would have no doubt seemed ludicrous to our ancestors. In the past, our ultimate survival depended on a certain level of physical activity. Unfortunately, in an industrialized world, sedentary has become the norm — most of us no longer having time to hunt, fish and forage for food (surprise, surprise!). We sit at work and then travel during our leisure time (OK, so we might exercise a bit on vacation).

And don’t even get me started on all the time we spend in front of computers, glued to smartphones, tinkering with iPads. The problem here lies within our very make-up — while we are always on the move with our jobs, kids and social lives, we are not necessarily moving our bodies in ways that offer long-range health benefits. If our bodies are not used, they deteriorate quickly, making way for an explosion of health problems. The No. 1 health complaint in the U.S. is headaches; No. 2 isback pain. And then, of course, the serious health issues we read about daily due to poor diet (don’t get me started!) and lack of exercise: heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and so on.

So may I make some suggestions to help bring more movement into your life? And I guarantee, there is joy in movement. It is inherent in our true selves!

Discover what brings you joy. Do you love to dance? To be outdoors walking or hiking? Playing tennis or basketball? Being in a great yoga class? Whatever the movement is that makes you feel good — do it! You don’t necessarily have to join an expensive gym because movement is free!

Find a good time of day when you can do your movement of choice and schedule it like an appointment. Make it a priority in your daily routine.

Enlist the support of a friend, neighbor, loved one or doggie to move with you. Whatever physical activity turns you on; you will be more motivated with a friend or two. By the way, dog experts recommend walking your dear one twice a day for a healthy and happy pup (and owner!).

Set goals. Make them realistic, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself — just be safe. You can also track yourself and your progress with a pedometer or one of the gazillion tracking apps available online (although I feel a bit guilty giving you yet something else to do online)!

If there is a voice inside you that tells you, “We don’t have time for this … I don’t feel like exercising,” ignore it! If you listen to that voice, your very best efforts will be sabotaged.

Reward yourself. A simple reward for a job well done is in order, and I don’t mean cupcakes.

We should move 30 minutes a day, which is ideal; however, do whatever you can do. Really want to see results? Make sure you do some type of strength training two to three times a week and cardio four or fivetimes a week. Want a hotworkout? Try HIIT — High Intensity Interval Training. It’s exercise that alternates between short, intense bursts of anaerobic exercise (20 to 30 seconds) followed by a recovery period of moderate exercise (10 to 30 seconds). The beauty of HIIT is that you only need to do 20 minutes of this and you’re good to go, and it improves your athletic ability, your glucose metabolism and absolutely torches calories and fat. A simple example would be to walk at a moderate pace to warm up for 5 minutes, then add in 20 to 30 seconds of an all-out sprint, followed by moderate walking recovery for 10 to 30 seconds. Do this for 20 minutes, cool down for 5 minutes and you’re done! Of course, check in with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Just remember to move!

Sharon Donaldson is the YWCA Santa Monica / Westside’s Director of Lifelong Wellness. She is a 25-year Certified Fitness Instructor with the American Council on Exercise and teaches locally. Since 1991, she has also been a National Trainer for the YWCA of the USA Encore Program, a free aqua exercise and peer support program for women with cancer currently being offered at the YWCA. You can reach herat sdonaldson@smywca.org.

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