Everyone these days seems to be thinking about exercise as part of a healthy routine. However, when many people think of exercise, they imagine running marathons or swimming in triathalons, or they picture the activities of professional athletes who train for hours every day. The fact is that getting physically active does not have to mean hours at the gym or hiring a personal trainer. You can work physical activity into your daily routine by following the healthy guidelines established by experts and incorporating short bursts of activity into everyday tasks.

What Are the Guidelines for Exercise?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, those who want to see health benefits from exercise should follow these guidelines:

Engage in 150 minutes or two-and-a-half hours per week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise as well as two days per week of strength training

Moderate intensity exercise is activity that raises your heart rate to 60 percent of your maximum capability. According to the Mayo Clinic, in order to figure out your exercise heart rate goal, subtract your age from 220 and multiply by .60. If you are 40 years old, this would result in a target heart rate of 108 beats per minute. You can actually measure your heart rate while you exercise, but an easier way to tell if you are working hard enough is through perceived activity level. If you can talk comfortably but find it hard to sing, you are in the right range for moderate physical activity. You can exercise in increments of ten minutes or more; three ten-minute sessions per day will give you the right amount of exercise to meet the guidelines.

– Engage in 75 minutes or one and one-quarter hours of intense physical activity per week along with two days of strength training

If you prefer to jog, swim vigorously or perform some other intense activity, you can cut your exercise time in half. Vigorous activity is defined as 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. You should have difficulty sustaining a conversation if you are working this hard.

– Incorporate Strength Training

Strength training includes any activities that build your muscles, such as lifting weights, stretching, yoga, Pilates, or whole-body exercise. Always be sure to exercise all muscle groups rather than focusing on one area.

– For the best health benefits, increase your exercise to a mix of intense and moderate activity that equals 300 minutes per week or five hours of activity.

How Can I Incorporate Exercise Into My Routine?

The good news is that beneficial exercise is not limited to gym time or extended bouts of running or swimming. You can engage in almost any type of physical activity that raises your heart rate and gets your muscles moving.

For example, if you have stairs in your home, going up and down the flights at a quick pace for ten minutes three times a day will give you all the aerobic exercise you require for the day. A long walk through the neighborhood is great exercise, or you can go swimming for fifteen minutes in your local pool.

You can also incorporate “exercise bites” into your day to help you reach your total. For example, if you park your car at the farthest end of the parking lot and walk briskly to the store then back to your car, you may well have incorporated ten minutes of activity into your day without any special equipment or even making time for exercise. Walking the mall is another great activity that can be enjoyed alone or in a group.

Many people find that they exercise more regularly when they are part of an organized activity. Think about the things you like to do: dance classes, walking, kayaking or swimming, volleyball or softball are all activities that are available in many locations as part of a group. When you join a group, you often feel more accountable for your exercise time and enjoy the benefits of interacting with others while you work out. While it may be beneficial to join a gym, many people find they attend more regularly when they have an accountability partner and meet at scheduled times every week. If all else fails or the weather is bad, you can always squeeze in a quick workout at home with a DVD or a television exercise program.

Learning to get healthy activity into your routine is not always simple but it can be done with some motivation and dedication. Best of all, you will reap health benefits for the rest of your life simply by incorporating activity into your daily plan.