Of all the things we can & should do to improve our health, the one people consistently have the hardest time with is not diet but consistent exercise. Even I have to admit that I often struggle to fit regular exercise into my life on a routine basis. Granted, I’m no couch potato and I do get an hour or more in usually a couple of days per week but even 30 minutes/day 5 days per week doesn’t consistently happen. So part of the reason for this article is to begin to hold myself accountable for doing better. So be sure to check up on me!
What SHOULD We Be Doing?
You can broadly divide exercise into strength-building, stretching, and aerobic. Then there are areas of overlap: Flexibility exercises usually build strength and help with balance but can also be aerobic if done over a sustained period, for example. Similarly, Yoga can be more of a stretching exercise but can also help with strength, flexibility and balance. It’s obvious that this article will just begin to scratch the surface.
There are 3 important things to keep in mind:
- You should strive to eventually include strength-building, stretching and aerobics into your routine on a regular basis.
- In order to make progress in any of those areas, you will need to do them an average of 3 or more times per week.
- As we age, maintaining strength, balance & flexibility become more important.
So Where Should You Begin?
The easy answer is with something that isn’t too much of a struggle! Getting started with something you can do (and enjoy!) and increasing from there is more likely to keep you doing it rather than trying to do too much too soon, getting sore; or even worse; injured, and then quitting!
I like to suggest that the easiest way to begin is to start with something you like doing! Maybe it’s walking, hiking or bicycling. Maybe it’s basketball, soccer or tennis. In our area, it could even by kayaking, swimming or other water sports. Starting with something more recreational in nature does a couple of things: (1) gets you doing something you enjoy that may not even be a chore. (2) Makes it easier to find an accountability partner!
So start by finding that accountability partner & setting up an agreeable schedule. Then add from there.
Some things to remember:
- It’s important to include warm-up time before & time for stretching & cool-down after. This will minimize soreness.
- Monitoring your progress will help keep you motivated. Some simple ways to monitor: total time, total distance, body measurements or weight measurements. Many of these you can do on your own or with simple phone apps. Ideally, chart your results so can see your progress over time.
- The body becomes accommodated to activity quickly. This means that once you’ve lost a certain amount of fat, for example, by doing a particular activity, you will probably need to (1) work out longer or harder or (2) switch to a different activity in order to lose more fat. Varying your activity will keep you progressing.
- As you get more fit, begin to add in additional types of exercise for more strength-building, aerobic capacity, flexibility, balance & other goals.
- Set goals that are specific & measurable and dependent on what you’re doing. For example: it may make more sense to set a goal based on a clothes size or a measurement rather than weight if you’re not obese since muscle can weigh more than fat. And CELEBRATE when you achieve your goals!
- Of course, you should check with me or your health care provider before beginning a fitness program.
Here’s a link to a simple 9 minute body-weight workout