Leap up from your couch and explore your potential.
Transitioning from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one doesn't have to be drastic. You can ease into an exercise routine over time in ways that are not only enjoyable but life-changing. Start slowly with brisk walks, lifting light dumbbells and stretching routines. As you gain strength and energy you can turn that simple brisk walk into a challenging interval routine or a vigorous hike in the country. Say goodbye to your couch as you embark on a new way of being.
Make a Move
Improving your cardiovascular fitness and strengthening lower-body muscles are two benefits of brisk walking. It also falls squarely into one of the recommended, moderately-intense aerobic activities suggested by the Centers for Disease Control. Even if you are transitioning from a sedentary lifestyle to an active one, the CDC advocates spending at least 150 minutes a week on your chosen activity. Walking at a speed that elevates your heart rate for 20 to 30 minutes a day -- or even in three 10-minute chunks daily -- will improve your fitness level quickly and prepare you for more vigorous activity down the road.
Strength in Numbers
It's not likely you will transition from couch potato to being ripped -- but you can develop your upper body strength with dumbbells or your own body weight. With pairs of dumbbells ranging in size from as little as 5- to 10-lbs., you can perform exercises for your chest, shoulders, arms and upper back for 20 minutes, on non-consecutive days, at least two to three days a week. ACE Fitness and ExRx.net both have extensive Online exercise libraries that will teach you the proper form for the maximum benefit and the least chance of injury. If using dumbbells, start with eight reps of each exercise, using the lightest weight. Gradually increase the number of sets and reps and the amount of weight you lift.
Muscles can become short and your range of motion limited from too much sitting. Performing an active stretching routine like yoga will slowly lengthen and strengthen your stiff muscles and increase your bend-ability. Even people who have no interest in developing an ongoing yoga practice can benefit from the individual poses. "Yoga Journal" offers beginner videos and written instructions for each posture. When you're sufficiently schooled in your preferred poses you can drop them into a matrix developed by "Yoga Journal" and create your own stretching routine. You can also attend beginner's yoga classes taught by certified instructors. Stretching is an activity you can do daily, either in the morning to get you energized for the day ahead, or in the evening to wind down.
A Mixed Bag
For any exercise to take hold and become a pleasure instead of a dreaded chore that sends you straight back to the sofa, mix up your workouts and keep it interesting. Your choices are not limited to the above forms of exercises, but they are an effective way to increase your level of fitness over a relatively short period of time. From there you can take up any activity that peaks your interest. The only thing that won't change, no matter what exercise you do, is the need to spend five to 10 minutes warming up dynamically before you start. Perform walking lunges, run on the spot or walk up and down your stairs to prepare your muscles and get your head in the game.