Getting in gear

Published 10:28 pm Saturday, January 21, 2012

Getting in shape can be an uphill battle.

Making the leap from inactive to physically fit

It might seem like a large mountain to climb to go from a sedentary lifestyle to being physically fit, but getting active doesn’t always have to include running six miles a day or frequenting the gym.

In fact, there are several ways to improve physical fitness that don’t require going to the gym at all.

Mike Frickanisce, a fitness specialist with Suffolk Parks and Recreation, said very often people who aren’t physically active feel intimidated by gyms for various reasons and shy away from them.

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But he said there are things people who are just starting to get fit can do that can make a huge difference in their health and well-being.

“Physical activity can be a lot of different things,” Frickanisce said. “It can be as simple as going out and taking a walk.”

If someone has been sedentary, meaning he or she does not do any kind of physical activity, he said, simple things can help burn calories.

“It’s not going to take much to increase your caloric expenditure,” Frickanisce said.

For example, activities such as walking the dog, washing your car, doing yard work or even cleaning the house can all count as physical activities.

Anything that gets your heart rate going and makes you breathe a little heavier can count as aerobic exercise.

Prior to getting more physically active, Frickanisce said, if you are sedentary, you should have a physical assessment, which can be done at most fitness centers, by your doctor or even on your own.

Frickanisce said when individuals are first starting out, it’s good to set a goal to be active for 20 to 30 minutes three days a week.

However, he said, ultimately, everyone should strive to do some kind of activity five days a week in order to continue to see results.

To ensure you continue to stay active, a variety of activities is key.

Frickanisce said you should find things you enjoy doing and that keep you engaged and also try several different things during the week.

He said it keeps things interesting and helps ensure people stick with their goals to get fit.

Through a more active lifestyle, you can drop weight, but there are also a multitude of other health benefits.

Recently, the American Institute for Cancer Research revealed that many new cases of cancer each year are associated with inactivity.

Through its data, the institute showed that cancer risk factors go down the more physical activity a person gets, whether it is moderate or more rigorous.

Frickanisce said he thinks most people aim to get physically fit because they want to lose weight, but other benefits can be noticed sooner.

“In general, you can see health benefits in your physical fitness even before you start to lose weight,” he said.

For example, Frickanisce said, activity helps lessen the body mass index, which in turn can lessen a person’s risk for getting chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension.

You can also reduce your risk for getting heart disease with more activity while also seeing improvements in sleep, anxiety levels and stress.