The United States Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services released new dietary guidelines in January, suggesting the following exercise regimens:
- Engage in regular physical activity and reduce sedentary activities to promote health, psychological well-being and a healthy body weight.
To reduce the risk of chronic disease in adulthood:
- Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, above usual activity, at work or home on most days of the week.
- For most people, greater health benefits can be obtained by engaging in physical activity of more vigorous intensity or longer duration.
- To help manage body weight and prevent gradual, unhealthy body weight gain in adulthood, engage in approximately 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity on most days of the week while not exceeding caloric intake requirements.
- To sustain weight loss in adulthood, participate in at least 60 to 90 minutes of daily moderate-intensity physical activity while not exceeding caloric intake requirements. Some people may need to consult with a health-care provider before participating in this level of activity.
- Achieve physical fitness by including cardiovascular conditioning, stretching exercises for flexibility and resistance exercises or calisthenics for muscle strength and endurance.
To local fitness instructors, exercise is not just about leaner thighs or a tight tummy. It's about living a better and longer life.
"It's health and longevity," said Robin Wilson, owner of Fresh Air Fitness in Steamboat Springs. "It's decreasing the aging process."
Her center features a personal training studio and an outdoor fitness deck. She works with individuals and groups to reach their fitness goals.
For beginners or those returning to exercise after a hiatus, that may mean walking or swimming.
"Basically, anything they like," Wilson said. "It's something they'll stick to."
But getting started can be the hard part, she said. Many people feel a drive to take care of their spouses and children, but in turn, neglect their own body's needs.
"People need to be pushed to do something that's good for them," she said. "I think they need to make some time for themselves."
Both Colorado Northwestern Community College and Colorado Mountain College's Alpine campus offer a variety of dance, weight training and aerobic courses. Tammy Workman, manager of CNCC's Trapper Fitness Center in Craig, said Pilates is a very popular class.
"This is a class that's more of a toning kind of class for your core section," she said. "It's going to tone the buttocks, the limbs."
The routine uses props such as weights and bands, as well as body mass, to make the movements effective. Pilates is not, however, straining on joints.
"It's different due to the fact that it's not such an impact," Workman said.
But Pilates alone is not enough. People need cardiovascular workouts as well, as recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services in the latest report.
The guidelines, released in January, suggest between 30 and 90 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity. While some may see these as strict, Wilson said that's reasonable.
"Three times a week, that's just maintenance level," she said.
She pointed out, too, that obesity rates for children are on the rise, and older adults need to model appropriate exercise behavior for them.
Starting is the hardest part, Workman said, and once people do, it seems natural.
"Once you do it and you do it every day, it becomes part of you," she said. "It will just become a habit."
And making exercise part of the daily routine is critical to living a longer and healthier life, Workman said.
"It has to be a life change," she said. "It needs to go with how we eat, how we exercise. It has to be part of you for the rest of your life."
Not only can exercise lead to a firmer body, but it also extends to other aspects of people's lives, the women say.
"(Exercise) does affect health and quality of life," Wilson said, "which makes everybody happier."