by Jonathan Dickman, MD, PhD
You may have witnessed the Twin Cities Marathon last month and wondered how all those 6,746 people in the race could make it to the finish. Perhaps you also noticed that people of all different shapes, sizes and backgrounds were running in the race and wondered if you too could participate one day. For many, the answer is that you can work towards running in the race weekend (whether it be the marathon, 10 mile, 10K or 5K race). Preparation for next year starts now. As a participant myself, I reflected on the journey that brought me to the start line. It all started with making physical activity a priority to reach my goals of avoiding the need for medications and to be able to keep up with my kids. As my training progressed, I found that increasing my physical activity also improved my sleep, mood and made daily activities feel easier. Many benefits can come from increasing physical activity!
Running a marathon, however, is not necessary to get the benefits of physical activity. In fact, people will notice the biggest change in their health when they go from very little activity to a basic daily routine. You can start with something simple, such as doing something you enjoy (walk, run, bike, swim, etc.) for at least 30 minutes every day. If needed, you can split up the activity into multiple sessions (such as two 15-minute sessions). Try asking friends or family to join you and then encourage each other to stay active. Do not be frustrated if your weight does not change as you become more active, as many of the benefits occur before there are any changes in weight.
You may be thinking that you need to join a gym to be active. This is not true, however, as many activities can be done outside (walking, running, biking, skiing) or at home (weights, fitness videos). If you do want to join a gym, but are worried about the cost, consider paying only $30 per year to access the fitness rooms and indoor tracks at any St. Paul Recreation Center (including Palace, Edgcumbe, Linwood, Highland and Oxford Recreation Centers). While other more expensive gyms have better hours and equipment, these fitness rooms give you access to basic aerobic machines and weights and simply cannot be beat for the price. Do not forget that St. Paul Recreation Centers also have free basketball, tennis, soccer, hockey and baseball facilities available for you to use and many structured activities that are either very affordable or free. St. Paul Recreation Centers offer many opportunities to stay active on a limited budget.
In the end, you too, can find yourself on the starting line next year. Whether you decide to run a race or simply get healthier, the first step is making daily physical activity a priority. Think about what types of activity you enjoy and start to incorporate it into your regular routine. Being physically active can be affordable and fun as you invite others to join you. You can do it — the first step towards getting healthier starts today.