Total Body Diet For Dummies

Chapter 17

Ten Ways to Stay Active

In This Chapter

arrow Defining different ways to move throughout the week

arrow Discovering activities you’ll stick with for the long haul

arrow Uncovering the pros and cons of various activities

There’s no doubt that a body in motion is healthier and happier. How much activity should you get? The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (such as jogging) per week. Strength training that uses all large muscle groups — arms, legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest — is encouraged at least twice a week.

remember Anything that gets your body moving counts and can offer health benefits!

An active lifestyle is good for your total body wellness and fosters a mind–body connection. Activity can help you focus, think more clearly, and hone your creativity. By moving your body regularly, you not only get cardiovascular benefits, but your blood sugar, blood pressure, and body weight will most likely stay in a healthy range.

warning Check with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise regimen — especially if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, or osteoarthritis or have symptoms like dizziness, chest pain or pressure, or joint pain. Always begin slowly and gradually move from lower- to higher-intensity workouts.

This chapter fills you in on ten fun ways to get moving. From hitting the pavement to the water to the ice rink to the mat, in any season, weather, or mood, there’s an activity for you. The best part: You can mix and match activities to give your body a well-rounded variety of activities to shake off boredom and train different muscles groups for total body fitness from head to toe. Let’s get moving!


With a good pair of running shoes, you can hit the ground running anytime, anywhere. That’s the best part about this activity — it requires very minimal gear.

Whether you’re running on a treadmill, track, or paved road, you’re getting a cardiovascular workout. However, the open road is different from a treadmill. Running pros use both for different reasons. Here’s how they differ:

· You get better leg muscle conditioning from road running. Experts believe it works the soft tissues of the legs more because the road doesn’t give as much as the treadmill surface does.

· You can pace your running better on a road than you can on a treadmill. Although a treadmill pushes you along, the road allows you to gain a better understanding of your own body’s pace. So, as you work up to longer runs, it’s best to get out on the open road to get a sense of your body’s real running time.

· You get better weather awareness while running on the road. You’re forced to deal with weather conditions like wind, rain, cold, and heat, which helps you prepare for race day weather conditions (if you’re preparing for a road race like a 10K or marathon).

· You’re more in control of the workout conditions with a treadmill. You can run on a treadmill regardless of how bad the weather is outside.

· You get a heightened sense of speed and tempo from running on a treadmill than you do on the road. You can vary your running speed, incline, and tempo more easily. You can also do interval training (where you alternate the intensity of exertions from greater to lighter) more easily on a treadmill.

tip Running shoes can make or break your fitness routine. Get a pair that fits your feet well and supports your running style. Your shoes should fit snug, but not be too tight. It’s a good idea to have your gait looked at while trying on shoes to determine which shoes will be the best for you.


Like running, walking requires very little gear — just a good pair of shoes and proper attire for an outdoor excursion. Whether you’re walking on a treadmill, outside, or even at the mall, to get the full benefits of walking, make sure you’re walking with purpose.

Different from a slow, Sunday stroll, walking for a cardiovascular benefit and to shed some pounds requires a bit of speed and putting your whole body into it. Think about walking home from a job interview that you just aced. You’ve got your head held high, shoulders back, and legs moving at a good, speedy pace. You’re walking on sunshine, with attitude and confidence. That’s walking the total body walk!

tip Wear a pedometer to track your steps. Strive for 10,000 steps a day — from the moment you wake up until you go to sleep at night. Add a bit of core strength to your walks by intentionally tightening your abdominal muscles with every step. This strategy can prevent injuries, too.


There’s something magical about immersing your body in water. Your body feels light as it becomes buoyant. Swimming offers the best of both worlds: You can get a good workout for your heart and major muscle groups, and take it easy on your joints at the same time. Whatever stroke you prefer — freestyle, butterfly, backstroke, breast stroke — you’ll get a great workout!

Here’s why swimming is great for your total body:

· It allows you to control and focus on breathing for relaxation.

· It builds endurance and stamina.

· It develops your major muscle groups (which is great for burning calories once out of the water!).

· It’s low impact (which means it’s easy on your joints).

· The water is soothing and meditative, making for a great escape from stress.

Although swimming a great solo activity (as long as a lifeguard is present), doing it with friends can be a great way to have more fun. Join a local swimming club, if none of your friends are into swimming.

tip Here are some swimming tips to keep in mind:

· Always warm up beforehand by walking in place or doing some light squats and cool down afterward with a short walk in or out of the water to avoid injury and reduce muscle tension.

· Take the time to get your stroke techniques down so that you have good swimming form and can reap the maximum benefits. Use a coach to help you learn the proper technique.

Bike Riding

In Europe, bicycle riding is as common as driving. From the cities to the countryside, riding a bicycle is a mode of transportation for the young and old alike. Cycling is a great form of exercise and has become a competitive sport around the globe.

tip Even if you learned to ride a bike when you were a kid, before you hop on a bike for exercise, keep in mind a few important points:

· Always wear a properly fitting helmet when biking to ensure safety. Go to a local bike shop for help finding a helmet that fits.

· Sit up as straight as you can when cycling. Hunching your shoulders or tucking your chin when you bike will cause muscle soreness and fatigue.

· If there’s a designated bike lane or path, use it. That’s why it’s there.

· Keep a safe distance between you and other bikers.

· Make sure your bike fits your body. The handlebar width should equal your shoulder width for adequate breathing and handling of the bicycle.

· Bring a water bottle and a healthy snack (for example, a small banana plus a handful of nuts, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich) to fuel your body well, especially if you’re cycling longer than an hour.


Dating back thousands of years, yoga is spiritual discipline that teaches meditation, postures, and breathing techniques. It has been shown to decrease stress and depression, help minimize pain from diseases like cancer, and create positive behavior change. The premise of yoga is to create an inner awareness through self-observation without judgment. Through the premise of compassionately accepting yourself, yoga allows change to happen in your life by tapping into your inner wisdom or voice.

Among other health benefits, yoga may have the capacity to stop aging in your brain. A recent study in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience examined the gray matter in the brain of longtime yogis (people who practice yoga) with a control group of people who didn’t practice yoga. The study showed that the control group had significantly higher age-related decline in gray matter in their brains, whereas people who practice yoga did not show the same level of gray matter decline. The researchers surmised that yogis’ brains are tuned into the parasympathetic-driven mode — the part of your nervous system that restores your body to a calm state, protecting the brain from aging. By getting quiet with yourself and just being, you can affect positive healthy changes in your mind and body.

remember You don’t have to be an experienced yogi to enjoy the practice of yoga. All different ages, fitness levels, and personality types do yoga. When choosing a type of yoga that’s right for you, think about your fitness level, what you want out of it (for example, to build strength and muscle tone or to explore the mind-body connection), and your overall health (do you have any injuries or physical limitations?). The best bet is to start with a gentle type and progress to harder or more challenging types of yoga.

Table 17-1 is a quick guide to some types of yoga and what they offer.

Table 17-1 Types of Yoga

Type of Yoga


What It Is



Good for beginners. Focuses on the breathing as the yoga practice, more than the poses.



Slow-paced and good for beginners. You use blocks, belts, and pillow-like bolsters.



Begin with slow movements and progress to a deeper mind-body awareness.



Focus on how your breath moves through your body. It’s less about getting the pose perfect and more about gaining flexibility and restoring function. Good for beginners.



Thirteen poses. Lie down in between the poses. Good for all physical ability levels.



The most meditative type yoga. Allows for spiritual awareness through meditation, breathing, and chanting, along with gentle poses.



Nonstop poses and special breathing techniques.



Series of 26 poses in a hot room (over 100 degrees).



The most athletic type. Flow from one pose to another to build upper-body strength, flexibility, and balance.

Ever wonder how to do a downward dog or warrior or child’s pose? Check out the ten yoga poses at These poses can be energizing and restorative, and generate a mind–body connection instantly.

tip Yoga teaches gratitude for your life and world. Every yoga class ends with your hands in the prayer position over your heart and the word namaste (nah-ma-stay), which connects the divine spirit in you with everyone and thing around you. Namaste to you!

For more on yoga, check out Yoga For Dummies, 3rd Edition, by Larry Payne, PhD, and Georg Feuerstein, PhD (Wiley).


Created by Joseph Pilates (puh-lah-teez) in the early 1900s, this method of exercise is a series of mat-work moves typically done kneeling, lying, or sitting to put less strain on the heart and lungs. Pilates offers strength-training, flexibility, and core work through balance and control of the body, which transcends the mat into other areas of your life.

Every age group can participate in Pilates. Know your own fitness level and what you want to gain from it. Pilates emphasizes correct form as opposed to going for the muscle burn. It’s about engaging your whole body and concentrating on individual moves physically and mentally. There are different variations of every movement that challenge you to master one and then move to a more difficult one. Pilates focuses on toning muscles with bands, springs, and even better, your own body weight.

remember To get the most out of your time on the mat, look for a good Pilates teacher who is well trained and has received certification through a reputable organization like the Pilates Method Alliance (

For a whole book dedicated to Pilates, check out Pilates For Dummies, by Ellie Herman (Wiley).


Working different muscle groups with cross-training is ideal. Cross-training facilities are springing up all over the country, helping people to increase their capability and capacity over a broader range of movements and activities. Whether you’re an avid cyclist crossing over into running or a runner crossing into swimming, cross-training inherently allows you to train different body parts and build endurance at any fitness level.

The key to good cross-training is to focus on activities that use different body parts and rotate these activities throughout the week or month. To reduce injury, doing this type of activity will help foster strength, flexibility, and endurance in your total body, maximizing athletic performance, cardiovascular health, and weight management over the long term. If you’re interested in finding a cross-training program near you, try CrossFit at


Whether on ice, pavement, or in a roller rink, skating is a great activity for cardiovascular health and to build up your large leg muscles. Skating burns a lot of calories — which makes it a great weight loss and maintenance activity. All types of skating are low-impact, which means it’s a joint-friendly workout.

warning There are risk associated with all types of skating. Learning how to fall is key, especially in ice skating, where you probably aren’t wearing a helmet. People who inline skate typically wear plenty of safety gear, like knee pads, elbow pads, wrist pads, and helmets.

All types of skating offer a total body workout because they combine fun and fitness.


In recent years, climbing has become very popular. Whether you climb rocks outdoors, or go to an indoor climbing gym and climb on walls, this activity is great for the arms and legs. Climbing is a great way to condition your abdominal, arm, and leg muscles. It’s also great for fostering a mind–body connection because it requires a solo force of will to catapult your body up a steep rock, mountain, or manmade edifice.

Some climbing feats are thousands of feet up, making them not only challenging, but death defying. But you don’t have to be a daredevil to climb — you can easily recreationally climb at your local climbing wall.

tip Interested in competitive climbing? Check out the International Federation of Sport Climbing at


One of the most important exercises you can do is stretching — it goes hand in hand with any activity. After you’ve warmed up your muscles with running, biking, skating, yoga, Pilates, or rock climbing, stretching comes into play. It soothes, conditions, and strengthens muscle fibers to gear them up for rest, growth, and development.

The primary thing that stretching does is improves flexibility. Why is flexibility so important? Because it does the following:

· Allows you to do everyday tasks like tying your shoes, putting clothes high up in your closet, and putting away groceries. Plus, it makes the harder tasks like throwing a football into the end zone or reaching up to catch a fly ball possible.

· Minimizes injury as muscles and joints are better conditioned and have moved through a full range of motion, putting less strain on them.

· Enables good circulation, which allows working muscles to get nutrients and recover more quickly.

· Gives you good posture. Strong muscles will help keep your posture in top form.

tip There are numerous stretches for every body part from head to toe. Take a look at the stretching guide at for the ways to stretch each body part. Or check out Stretching For Dummies, by LaReine Chabut (Wiley), for a whole book dedicated to this important subject.