SOUND MIND, SOUND BODY: May you take this chance to get in gear


First came that big harvest dinner with a car-sized turkey set on your table, then the unforgettable night of too much candy corn, followed by the overwhelming 12 days of Christmas, chocolate hearts from your loved one and, just recently, a giant Easter bunny may have practically force-fed you some speckled candy eggs.

There was no use resisting these moments of indulgence as the colder weather kept you inside, but now it's time to get back in shape. Welcome to May, proclaimed back in 1983 to be National Physical Fitness Month.

Physical fitness is quite a broad term and can be interpreted as anything from carrying your kids around the house to participating in a triathlon.

It is whatever you have time for and whatever your fitness level may be at, just so long as your body is getting the activity it deserves.

How much physical activity should the average person be getting, then? According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults 18-64 years old should aim for two hours and 30 minutes each week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.

By "moderate-intensity," this means you should be able to talk, but not carry a tune. Power walk around the park, go on a bike ride, or join a ballroom dance class and you will fill this time sufficiently.

This aerobic activity should also go hand-in-hand with muscle-strengthening workouts on at least two days out of the week, focusing on all the muscles of your body.

If this still seems like a lot of time, there is another option for getting the right amount of physical activity in a shorter time frame.

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans points out that just one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week will get your body where it needs to be, along with two days that include muscle-strengthening moves.

With this level of exercise, you should not be able to easily hold a conversation. So this time, if you're going to the park, try jogging. Going on a bike ride? Find a hill to ride up. And why not look into joining an energizing dance class to get your heart pumping while still having a great time?

Dancing of any sort can be extremely beneficial to your physical well-being and can also add a lot more fun to mundane activities such as cleaning the house -- a great option for the multitasker.

With this said, it is understandable that many of us are so busy that we can barely make time for our fitness. Still, there are solutions for even the most desperate of situations.

If you have an office job, try sitting on a stability ball as opposed to your desk chair to help with posture and balance. Lean back and do some mini-crunches while you're waiting for a page to load. Stretch your muscles.

Do butt clenches while sitting. Ride a bike to and from work. Take the stairs. The possibilities are practically endless; you just have to make your fitness one of your top priorities and seek out ways to make it work. For some, this requires a little more creativity.

In celebration of National Physical Fitness month, I invite you to discover your body's true potential by including a few hours of physical activity per week, however you can. If this is new for you, take it slow, but make goals to improve throughout the month.

Make it your goal to move your body this May, and reap the benefits of a happier, healthier lifestyle.

Leah Robinson is a French and mass communications major concentrating in journalism and public relations at Walla Walla University. She has been volunteering as an intern at the Walla Walla YMCA since January and now has a monthly column series focusing on the fitness classes offered at the Y. Her voice can also be heard on Positive Life Radio, where she works as an announcer.


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