Did you know that nearly one in four gym-goers is over 55? AARP and the American Council on Exercise offer a free fitness consultation by an ACE-certified personal trainer (acefitness.org/aarpfitness), as well as a 20 percent discount on personal training sessions. Find gym discounts through your employer or your health insurance company, or check sites such as Groupon.com and LivingSocial.com to find deals in your community.
Try exercising with a friend or family member to keep you motivated. But if you don't have a reliable exercise buddy, try a virtual partner. The Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect gaming systems track your body's movements in real time and let you work out with a virtual friend.
Ready to step up your training but not quite sure how? If you can walk continuously for 20 minutes, you might be ready to try running. Several running stores, gyms and online programs offer beginners' running programs, which guide novices through a walk-run routine a few times a week until they're running continuously for 20 or 30 minutes. Cool Running's Couch to 5K (coolrunning.com) and Runner's World's 8-Week Beginning Runner's Training Program (runnersworld.com) are especially popular.
Take it outside. Exercising outdoors offers even more health benefits than going to the gym. Hiking, biking and walking in the fresh air have a greater positive effect on mental health than exercising indoors, a study found. Just five minutes of outdoor activity can improve mood, reduce stress and increase self-esteem — so take a walk after lunch for a more productive afternoon.
For National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, sign up for the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award challenge and track your progress online (presidentschallenge.org/challenge). Once you reach your goals, you'll be eligible to receive special awards and fitness gear.
Add some strength training to your workout, which tones muscles, builds bone and burns a whopping eight to 10 calories per minute. Even better, the additional muscle that you gain from lifting weights boosts your metabolism. For every three pounds of muscle you gain, you'll burn up to 120 additional calories a day, just doing nothing.
Summer is a great time to try a new sport. If you're feeling even a wee bit adventuresome this year, consider the newest craze in water sports: stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP. All you need is a paddleboard (available for rent at surf shops or outdoors stores), a paddle and any body of water — lake, river or ocean. Once you get comfortable on the board, you may want to try paddleboarding in waves for even more of a challenge.
When exercising in the heat, the general rule of thumb is drink 24 ounces of fluid two hours before exercise, followed by 8 ounces of water or a sports drink right before working out, with another 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes during exercise. And be on the lookout for signs of heat-related illness: muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness, nausea and a sudden cessation of sweating. If you experience any of these, find some shade and quaff a cool, nonalcoholic drink immediately.
Tap into your inner yogi during National Yoga Awareness Month. Just 20 minutes of yoga a day can lower blood pressure, reduce stress and alleviate pain. The Yoga Health Foundation is sponsoring one week of free yoga at more than 2,200 studios across the country. Find a participating studio at yogahealthfoundation.org.
Hiking and biking are both spectacular during the fall, especially if you live in an area where the leaves turn brilliant colors. Look for hiking and biking outings through your city or county parks department and local sporting goods stores.
Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday weight gain season. One way to curb cravings? A vigorous bout of exercise. New research shows that 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise first thing in the morning actually reduces a person's desire for food throughout the day.
Can't seem to find time to exercise during one of the busiest months of the year? Strap on a pedometer before you head out for your holiday shopping and then, instead of getting frustrated that you can't find a parking space nearby, rejoice when your little step-counter gizmo registers that many more steps taken. (You want to aim for 10,000 per day.)