As we enter the new year, many people will use the turn of the year to change their lifestyles, including getting more exercise. But how much exercise do we need to actually make a difference? Newly updated World Health Organization guidelines recommend 150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity per week or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity (or a combination of both). That’s anywhere from an hour and 15 minutes to 5 hours. But Vanessa M. Kercher, an exercise physiologist and clinical assistant professor at Indiana University, says it’s less about focusing on time and more about finding moments, however long they might be, to move your body throughout the day. It’s not necessary to try to squeeze in all activity at once, she says. People can identify times throughout the day to accumulate short bursts of movement. Then, Kercher says, add in some more specific goals related to time and intensity. Family activities are a great way to incorporate movement into your day. Kercher suggests doing interchangeable daily push-up and body squat goals. These can be done anytime while at home, whether you’re cooking or doing laundry. It is important, Kercher says, to make the activities fun and engaging which will help in keeping them a part of your routine. It is time for adults to throw out the idea that if you’re not doing the most grueling, sweat-drenching workout for more than an hour, it doesn’t count, Kercher says. Instead, start taking any and every opportunity to move, in any way possible at whatever speed, for any amount of time.
Along with their resolutions to get more exercise, many people enter the new year looking for ways to make changes in their overall lives. One way to make a big difference is to conduct a self-assessment of your mental well-being. That is especially true following 2020, a year of chaos and emotional strain. Samantha Schaefer from Healthy IU, Indiana University’s workplace wellness program, says there are some creative ways to increase self-care and well-being. For those who like art, Schaefer says, try creating a trading card for a person you would like to acknowledge as being important in your life, or for yourself, as an affirmation of your own self-worth. For those who like music, take time to listen to guided relaxation, which can be found online. Research shows the use of music can improve respiration rates and provide relaxation for pain and stress management. When choosing music, Schaefer y suggests looking for instruments and or voices that allow you to relax and empty your mind of stress and things to do. Finally, Schaefer says, writing can also provide a way to focus on your mental health and reduce stress. Schaefer suggests keeping a gratitude journal. The best way to cultivate gratitude is to practice gratitude on a regular basis, Schaefer says, and writing about what you’re grateful for can be more helpful than just having grateful thoughts. Take three to five minutes, a few times a week, to reflect and write down the things you are grateful for. When writing, Schaefer says, be as specific as possible and challenge yourself to find new things to be grateful for. Overall, Schaefer says, it is important for everyone to take care of their mental wellbeing and most importantly, to not to be afraid to reach out for help if needed.