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No matter what you personally think about exercise and being physically active, you can’t escape the facts: Exercise is excellent medicine. In fact, some scientists believe that the benefits of exercise are similar – if not greater – than most medications prescribed for coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.

You don’t have to take our word for it. You can read the research here: http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f5577

So what’s your favorite “medicine”? Don’t know? Check out some of the ways to get moving in your community.

Move, for a Healthy Weight

By definition, a healthy lifestyle includes movement, or exercise. It’s also one of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight

Exercise burns calories and builds muscle. It helps your heart and lungs, and can help improve your mood. On the other hand, sitting at a desk or in front of the television for hours each day causes your body to slow down, to hold on to fat and calories. So, if you are required to be at your desk all day, you need to balance that by adding movement to your daily routine.

First off, if you haven’t exercised in a long time, you should probably talk with your health care provider to make sure it’s okay. Then, start with some simple steps.

A good starting point would be to take a walk around the block on your lunch break. Do it again after work, before you go home. Or, stop at the gym, the mall, or the park, and walk for 30 minutes before you end your day. Put time for exercise in your daily schedule. It’s as important as eating, bathing, and taking your medications because, well, it is medication.

As you build strength and stamina, don’t be afraid to turn it up a notch. Vigorous exercise burns the highest number of calories and provides the greatest protection for your heart and your health. Work your way up to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise (brisk walking, jogging, cycling) five or more days a week. If you simply can’t do “vigorous” right now, “moderate” is just fine. Remember that some physical activity is better than none. For instance, brisk walking is a good type of exercise that burns calories and helps build stronger bones.

Both aerobic exercises and strengthening exercises (calisthenics, weight training) are important for your health. To build muscle, do two or three strength-building sessions a week. Building muscle can speed up your metabolism, which helps burn more calories.

If you’ve never been to a gym, or don’t want to go, that’s okay! It’s not necessary. Resistance bands made of plastic tubing are inexpensive and are a good substitute for weights. Or, better yet, use your own body weight. And, you can always check out some of the free exercise videos on the Internet these days.

Once you get used to moving, stay motivated by trying new activities, such as dancing, hiking, golfing, skiing, or martial arts. If you don’t always have time to exercise, you can still find plenty of opportunities to burn calories: Take the stairs instead of the elevator; walk briskly rather than strolling, park further away from your destination. Any extra activity you can add to your day will make a difference.

The Utah Department of Health has a number of tools to help you get moving in your community. http://choosehealth.utah.gov/families/physical-activity/tools-resources.php

The Utah Recreation and Parks Association can point you to recreation centers and activities in your area. http://www.urpa.org/

Get moving outdoors at one of Utah’s state parks. http://www.stateparks.utah.gov/