Welcome to the epic battle of good intentions versus reality. Heck, maybe that should be the plot of the next Marvel movie, with a superhero named Exercise Intentions finally triumphing over the evil mastermind Excuses ‘n’ Obstacles. We hope Intentions wins, and so should you.

Intentions: United Press International reports that more than 75% of adults in America say that being in shape and looking good are “very important” to them, and around as many say they want to change something about the appearance of their body.

Excuses ‘n’ Obstacles: Only 23.5% of folks 18+ meet the minimal, not optimal, guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity. Many folks feel they don’t have the time, they’re too tired, it’s too expensive, they’re not young enough or healthy enough to work out, or they just don’t enjoy it.

Solution: Motivation plus information may be the key to letting your good intentions win. So, we’re going to show you just how effective physical activity can be in protecting your health and how you can fit fitness into your life.

Benefits that are life-changing

The American College of Sports Medicine has put together all the scientific evidence behind the most recent physical activity guidelines. Those guidelines say you should get 150 to 300 minutes weekly of moderate aerobic activity, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity, plus moderate to vigorous muscle-strengthening activities using all major muscle groups, two or more days a week.

We pulled out three of the 14 areas they researched to help you get motivated to walk the walk instead of talk and balk. (Want to see all the info from ACSM? Go to www.acsm.org/pagpros2019.)

Tracking your step count: We’re always telling you to get in as many steps daily as possible (target 10,000). Well, here’s why that’s important: The ACSM found evidence that for healthy adults, every additional 2,000 steps a day you take (up to 10,000) is associated with a 10% reduction in cardiovascular events (heart attack, stroke, angina, etc.). If you have impaired glucose tolerance (prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes), every increase in 2,000 steps a day reduces the rate of cardiovascular events by 8%!

Easing knee and hip osteoarthritis pain: Around 14 million of you have knee pain from osteoarthritis, and around a quarter of you will develop osteoarthritis of the hip at some point. The ACSM found research that definitively shows physical activity decreases pain and increases joint function, and 10,000 steps a day or the equivalent does not accelerate progression of osteoarthritis.

Keeping your brain sharp: For both young and old, the ACSM says there’s strong evidence that moderate to vigorous physical activity not only has an immediate effect on your cognitive abilities (all that blood and oxygen flowing to your brain), but in the long run it improves academic achievement and boosts your information processing speed, memory and executive function. In addition, it helps protect you against cognitive impairment, including Alzheimer’s disease.

How to get those benefits

1. If you have any physical or medical limitations, talk to your doctor about activities that you can do and will stick with.

2. Is time a problem? Look for small wins and don’t set huge goals. Bouts of 10 minutes of activity are beneficial for sedentary folks! Walk the mall, the yard, your office halls. Do stretch bands for 10 minutes in the morning, at lunchtime, before dinner. While watching TV, stand up and march in place; do jumps.

3. Don’t like gyms? Find outside isn’t inviting? Check out videos on YouTube and online that offer everything from seated yoga (it’s surprisingly effective) to tai chi, as well as more vigorous step or spin classes and calisthenics. Try them all. Find what’s fun. Fun is the key to sticking with it.

When you’ve decided to take steps to improve your health, write down your goals (keep them doable) and then record your daily efforts.

The You Docs’ column runs in Wednesday’s Extra.

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