One of the pillars of the Mediterranean Diet is engaging in an active lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be difficult to start living a more active lifestyle! Read on for more.
One of the pillars of the Mediterranean Diet is engaging in an active lifestyle. (To learn more about all of the principles of this great Lifestyle, check out our page here) Regular movement is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and many studies show that. But it doesn’t have to be difficult to start living a more active lifestyle.
Exercise as part of life
In many parts of the world, including the Mediterranean, people include walking as part of their normal lives. Towns are organized so that people are able to walk to grocery stores, local restaurants, the post office, and other places to run errands. When I lived in Germany in the early 2000s, it was very common for families to take walks together after dinner and on the weekends. We would see our whole neighborhood out walking in the evenings! People in the Mediterranean get lots of exercise during the normal course of daily living.
For many of us in America, our neighborhoods and lives are not set up the same way. Our suburban sprawl means that many people cannot walk to work or to get groceries. Cars are far more commonplace in America than in the Mediterranean. This means that we will need to be more deliberate about integrating activity into our daily lives. Certainly, going to a fitness class or to the gym is a great way to get some exercise. However, the gym is definitely not required. If the gym is far away, or if you have a more limited amount of time in your life for exercise, a simpler option may be better and just as beneficial. The best option is to pick something that is easy and enjoyable for you—something that you will be able to add to your life!
Why we need activity in our lives
Physical activity is great for our bodies and minds. According to the Center for Disease Control, “regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health”
Research suggests that engaging in regular physical activity.
- Increases your mood while reducing your risk of depression and anxiety
- Improves sleep
- Strengthens your muscles and bones
- Helps your reach a healthy weight – whether your goal is weight loss or maintenance
- Reduces your risk of a heart attack, lower your blood pressure, and improve cholesterol levels
- Lowers your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic disease
For many people, walking is a great way to stay active. You can do it anywhere, in virtually any type of clothing (as long as you have supportive, athletic shoes), and it doesn’t cost any money. Being outdoors in the sun increases your Vitamin D levels which ultimately leads to an overall increase in your mood.
It is recommended that you aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day, but if that sounds like a lot to you – do not let that hold you back. Exercise can be broken up throughout the day! Try a 15-minute walk when you first wake up (it is a great way to jump start your morning without coffee!) and then again after dinner (walking after a meal is great for digestion!). Or take a 20-minute walk on your lunch break and then walk the sidelines at your kid’s soccer practice.
Of course, walking is not your only choice.
So many activities to choose from!
Virtually anything that gets your heart rate up counts as physical activity. Find something that you love and make it a goal to get it in most days! Exercise is even better with a buddy; see if a family member or a neighbor would like to join you.
Some popular options include:
- Playing basketball, tennis, or other sports
- Lifting weights
- Vigorous cleaning
- Yoga and Pilates
Exercise is not an ‘all or nothing’ activity. If you can’t do as much as you wanted, try not to use it as an excuse to do nothing. You may want to do an hour fitness class but if all you can realistically do today is a 10-minute walk, this is so much better than doing nothing! Look for ways to sneak in more activity and your health and mood will thank you.