ADVERTISEMENT

It slims your hips, flattens your belly, boosts your spirits and, according to a recent study that had us cheering loudly, packs a longevity bonus as powerful as drugs for people living with heart disease, diabetes or the aftermath of a stroke. We’re talking about the amazing benefits of physical activity.

So if you’re among the 80 percent of Americans searching for the motivation to get or stay active, we’ve got the secret: Tell your inner gym teacher to take a hike!

That’s right. Stop believing that activity’s gotta hurt, use up lots of time, be exhausting or bore you to tears.

Those myths keep way too many people on the couch. The truth: Small amounts of easy, enjoyable activity are best for revving up your energy level and boosting your mood. In fact, by slashing stress and increasing levels of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin, one workout – you, strolling around the block – can help you feel great for a whopping 12 hours!

It’s no wonder that “enjoyment,” “fun” and “happiness” are top reasons regular exercisers stick with it. A new report from the University of New Hampshire even found that people who remembered something pleasant about a past exercise session worked out 20 percent to 60 percent more often than folks who remembered the negatives. If you haven’t found your own exercise groove yet due to discomfort, fatigue, lack of time or just feeling too out-of-shape or uncoordinated to get out there, these easy, fun strategies will get and keep you moving – because they feel so good.

If you’re turned off by wasting time driving to the gym, changing clothes, a shower afterward, try …

1. Walking, the no-fuss routine: Save time with workouts you can do right now, without getting into your car, putting on special clothes or having to shower afterward. Dr. Mike hops on his office treadmill for brief strolls whenever he has a few minutes. Do the same at home by taking a quick walk in your neighborhood or marching in place during TV commercials. At work, schedule a couple of daily 10- to 15-minute strolls; then increase to 30 minutes a day. Two 15-minute strolls deliver benefits comparable to a longer walk. You see improvements in better circulation and blood pressure.

If you’re turned off by solitude, try…

2. Enlisting a friend: Stroll with a friend at home and/or at work, if being solitary is an exercise turnoff for you. Success and exercise enjoyment rates soar when you buddy up. You get companionship, accountability and may even burn more calories!

3. The benefits of walking with a dog: Besides boosting the enjoyment of your average walk, dog owners are 20 percent less likely to be obese than non-dog owners. But wear a pedometer so you’ll walk in circles while your dog stops. The average hourlong dog walk delivers a non-pedometer wearer only about eight minutes of walking; by wearing a pedometer, you’ll get close to 50 minutes.

If you’re turned off by boot-camp-style workouts or a boring routine at the gym, try …

4. Dancing or playing outside: Love moving to music? You’ll burn lots of calories and reap benefits like a healthier heart and protection against dementia. Hula hoop, shimmy and shake to your favorite tunes out back at home, or take an outdoor dance exercise class like Zumba. You can toss a Frisbee, work in the garden. All of these burn calories, raise your heart rate and count as exercise in a fresh-air environment.

If you’re turned off by feeling achy afterward, try …

5. Backing off a little: Overdoing it is a big reason why exercise newbies quit, so keep in mind that a comfortably paced routine is better for boosting energy and mood. If you’re an experienced exerciser who’s traded up to a too-tough routine, here’s news: Overtraining may boost inflammation in ways that interfere with muscle-building benefits. Dial down the intensity of your routine a little so that you can’t wait to do it again.

Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Mike Roizen is chief wellness officer and chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.