Fitness: Choosing Activities That Are Right for You
When you're active, life can be better.
Being active helps you look and feel your best and lowers your risk for a heart attack, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers. It gives you the energy to do the things that make you happy.
But it can be hard to get into the habit of daily activity. It's important to find activities that fit your lifestyle and your personality.
To feel your best, you need at least 2½ hours of moderate activity a week. Brisk walking is an example. But any activities that raise your heart rate and make you breathe harder—including daily chores—can be included. It's fine to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week.
How do you choose the best activity for you?
Look for activities that you enjoy and that fit your lifestyle. Answering the questions below may help you figure out what activities would be best for you. After you've thought about your answers, read this list of ideas for getting active.
- Do you prefer being active by yourself or with others? Joining a group or a class can help keep you motivated. But some people are more likely to stay with an activity or exercise if they do it alone.
- Do you enjoy being outdoors when possible, or do you feel safer and more confident in an indoor setting? Many people love being outside. But you may not like it when the weather is too hot, too cold, or too wet. Or you may be uncomfortable being alone outdoors away from home. If you're mostly an indoor person, keep that in mind when you choose an activity.
- Do you prefer activities that involve some contact (soccer, basketball) or no contact? Choose swimming over basketball, for example, if you don't like the idea of contact sports.
- Do you prefer to compete with others, compete with yourself, or not compete at all? Everyone is different. Some people do better if they have someone to compete with—even if that someone is themselves. Others do better when there's no competition to worry about. For example, choose gardening or dancing over team sports or tennis if you don't like competition.
- Do you prefer activities that also involve some mental challenge, or do you prefer not to have to think or concentrate while you are being active? Many team sports exercise your brain as well as your body as you think about what your next move should be. Mountain biking requires you to pay close attention to your surroundings and where you're headed. If you'd rather shut off your brain and let your body do the work, try doing housework set to music, raking leaves, or going for a walk or a jog.
- Do you prefer being active in the morning, midday, or evening? We all have different body clocks that make us more energetic at certain parts of the day. And our schedules often determine when we can take the time to exercise and when we can't. Which part of the day is best for you? The better you plan your activity times to match your energy levels and your daily schedule, the more likely you are to keep up your healthy activity habits.
- Are you interested in taking classes or getting instruction to learn a new activity? You may not know how much you'll enjoy a certain activity until you become familiar with it. A class or other type of lesson can help you find out. If you don't want to join a class, choose something you can learn or do on your own.
- Do you prefer everyday activities, such as gardening, to more structured activities? Many people find everyday activities easier to keep doing. Others feel they are more likely to stay with an activity if it requires them to show up for a class or for a game.
- How much money are you willing to spend on gear or other expenses related to an activity? There are activities to match every budget. You can walk around your neighborhood without spending any money. Exercise DVDs involve a small one-time cost. You may be able to join a community yoga or tai chi class for a small fee.
Sometimes people try a sport or activity one time, buy expensive equipment or clothes for that activity, and then never use them again. It's usually a mistake to think that you will keep up with a particular sport or activity just because you've invested money in it. Wait until you know that you really enjoy the activity, and then spend the money. In some cases, you can rent the equipment to find out if you like the sport.
On the other hand, spending a little money can be a wise investment in your health. For example, joining a fitness center or gym can help you succeed at becoming more active. A fitness professional can help you plan a routine and learn proper form and technique.
Current as of: October 10, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health