(Pictured: Abby Dunlap, Certified Health Coach and Exercise Specialist)
The pictures are all over social media – fitness models showing off their sculpted physiques, doing yoga poses or lifting heavy weights. Reality TV shows depict drastic weight loss and extreme makeovers. These days America seems fitness-obsessed, and yet in North Carolina nearly 50% of people don't get the recommended amount of physical activity.
"Physical fitness is not about looking like a celebrity. It's more important than that," said Iredell Health System's Employee Health and Wellness Nurse Elaine Hendershot. "It's about living a healthier life and preventing disease. You can feel better about yourself and be around for your family. That's great motivation to incorporate physical activity into your routine."
In January many of us head back to the gym, only to be intimidated by intense exercise or unable to stick with a new routine. Iredell Health System is encouraging the community and its own employees to work exercise into their daily lives all year long. Hendershot organizes activities and wellness challenges for IHS employees, getting them to take more steps or use the stairs.
"Just like we schedule time for work and our families, we need to schedule time to take care of ourselves," said Hendershot. "There are all kinds of ways to make exercise a regular part of your routine. You have to find what works best for you."
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week, which equals an average of 30 minutes a day, five times a week. Certified Health Coach and Exercise Specialist Abby Dunlap helps Iredell Health System patients get active. She says you don't always have to reach your daily goals at once.
"You can break up your physical activity into 10 minute increments if necessary," said Dunlap. "Just focus on moving. Moderate physical activity can include things like raking leaves or walking fast. It is important that you increase your heart rate, enough where you can still talk, but you wouldn't be able to sing."
Dunlap also says not to rush into vigorous exercise if you are just beginning. You can start by taking things slow. As you begin to exercise on a regular basis, do something you enjoy. Having fun can be the key to success.
"If you are decisive, independent, and self-disciplined, you may benefit from working out alone. Set specific goals and regularly track your progress. If you thrive in social settings and are motivated by encouragement, you may benefit from working out with others — join a group exercise class, team, or have an accountability partner. If you are drawn to activities that are engaging and fun and are easily bored with structured exercise, you may benefit from a variety of activities, so look at cross training and use a variety of different types of exercise to reach your goals," she said. "When trying to find the right type of exercise for you, it is helpful to look at your interests and personality."
Your healthcare provider can offer advice about starting a fitness routine. To find a provider near you, visit IredellHealth.org.