Maintaining strength and energy becomes more difficult as the body changes over time through natural aging, illness or injuries.

There are many proven benefits of an active lifestyle, such as staying healthy, continuing recovery after surgery or hospitalization, engaging with others in shared activities, and simply getting out and about.

The biggest challenge for most people, however, is starting an exercise routine and then following through until it becomes a part of our daily activity. On average, this can take from 3 to 4 weeks of repetition to form a new and healthy habit, and this article provides you with suggestions and ideas to help inspire you to take that either first step, or simply energize you to keep going.

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How much exercise you need depends on many factors, such as age and overall health. You should always consult with your primary care physician before you begin any exercise program to avoid injury.

Different types of exercise provide different benefits, and combining as many as you are able to in your daily routines will give you the best results.

  • Endurance exercise: also known as aerobic exercise, helps to increase heart and breathing rates and include brisk walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, biking and any other activity that requires moderate to strenuous cardiovascular effort.
  • Strength exercise: helps build muscle strength and bone density – especially important as we age – and includes lifting weights, using resistance bands, and squeezing compression balls to improve and maintain hand strength and dexterity.
  • Balance exercise: with age, you are more prone to falling, but creating a routine that keeps you poised can help prevent injuries from falls, improve peripheral vision and increase confidence.
  • Flexibility exercise: stretching your muscles and connective tissues keeps you limber, prevents injuries, and alleviates pain, but it's also a great way to both wrap up an exercise routine or warm up your muscles beforehand.

In order to get the most out of any exercise program and physical activity, it has to be a regular part of your life and daily routine. One way to do this is to make sure you include exercise on your “to-do” list and put it at the top.

Prioritize. Remind yourself that being active is one of the most important things you can do. Make your exercise routine the first thing you do every day so it won’t get pushed aside when you get too busy or other distractions come up.

Make it easy. Find ways to make exercise convenient by walking the entire mall, or every aisle of the store when you go shopping. Use your bike to run errands, join a gym close to home and use the stairs instead of the elevator.

Make it social. Find a friend that is committed to exercising and create a buddy system to keep you both going. Walk with friends or coworkers and consider stepping out and trying something different like a dance or yoga class.

Make it fun. If you like being outside, ride your bike more often and discover new trails. Go hiking in new places. Listen to music and pick up the pace while you’re doing chores like housework, washing the car or gardening.

Make it happen. You can choose to be active in just about any situation and in many ways, like getting off the bus a couple of stops before your destination and walking the rest of the way. Do step-ups, wall push-ups or toe-stands while you’re waiting for a friend or your spouse. Look for ways that you can incorporate more activity into your daily routines and get moving!

A regular exercise program will help you feel better overall and give you more energy to do the things you enjoy. If you’re just getting started, build up slowly and work up towards your goals and get ready to reap the benefits of an active and healthy lifestyle.

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How are you staying active? Share with us in the comments below.