When most people who are new or returning to exercise think about burning calories, they think about an hour or more of heart pounding, sweat dripping, muscle torture. For some people, that scenario is such a turn off that they are not motivated to start or continue working out. The path to your fitness goal is to do what you can, with the amount of time you have, in a place where you’re comfortable, and repeat often!
Moving more doesn’t mean you have to be in the gym pumping iron all day, every day. You can incorporate movement throughout your day in a variety of ways.
Everyone moves; try adding just a little more of the same movement that you already do. For example, park further away from your destination and enjoy a few minutes’ longer walk to the door. If you park in the same lot every day, try parking further away every week. Or try exiting the train or the bus one stop earlier than usual and walk the extra few blocks. Each week try getting off at an even earlier stop.
You could also add some new movements to your existing routine. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. You can develop your stamina over time by changing your daily elevator trip to the 10th floor. Stop on the ninth floor and take one flight of stairs to your destination. Start off by walking up one flight for two weeks, then, add another flight every other week until you’re walking up all of the flights to your destination. Some of my clients even started having work meeting while walking up the stairs - this is a great way to get some exercise AND make sure that meetings don’t run long!
Try to find physical activities that you enjoy doing so that you will be encouraged to do them. Any type of physical activity is beneficial and can be as varied as hula-hooping, water aerobics, belly dancing or whatever else moves you.
One of my clients decided to shift how she socialized with her friends when she realized that every gathering centered around a sumptuous (read fattening) meal. She let all of her friends know that if they wanted to get together, movement would be the center of their date. (She has shed more than 50 pounds since making this decision.)
A good workout does not always have to be inside a crowded gym. You can start by walking around the block for 5 minutes, or lifting weights at home for five minutes. Don’t worry if you don’t have a home gym; you can do body weight exercises like push-ups, dips, and squats in limited space, indoors or outdoors, with no equipment or gear. Be as creative as you can. The ancient Greek Spartans who were the epitome of fitness did not have any fancy equipment. You can use water bottles or grocery bags filled with canned food; anything that you can grip and has weight will work. One of my clients uses a bag of cat litter in her workout and she’s one of my stronger clients!
If you would like to have a slightly less gritty set of weights than my litter-lifting client, you can equip your workout space for much less money than the annual membership fees at most gyms. The basic equipment needed for a effective workout includes dumbbells, resistance bands, a mat, and a medicine ball. These tools are particularly important since strength training is beneficial to all exercise routines and can be easily incorporated it into your schedule.
The key is to get started; sitting on the couch watching tv will not improve your health. Any type of movement for any duration is better than doing nothing. New studies are indicating that sitting for long extended periods of time can be unhealthy.
Remember, if you are new - or returning to exercise after a hiatus - start off slowly. Allow yourself plenty of time to progress by increasing the duration and intensity of your exercise. If you start off thinking that every exercise session must be an intense workout or “why bother”, you won't bother. Also, if every workout is maximum intensity you can subject yourself to injury. If you get injured, then you certainly won't be able to work out, you will have a negative experience associated with exercise and will have set yourself back instead of moving forward.
It might sound counter intuitive and contrary to what you have heard others say, but from my 14 years of experience as a personal trainer I have found that starting off slowly for most people has its benefits. Good health is developed by lifelong habits. By starting off slowly you can have positive experiences with every work out and the more positive experiences you have the more motivated you will be to continue.
For instance, you could start with five minutes of daily walking and add a minute to your walk every week. In a year you would be up to 56 minutes, in two years you would be walking 108 minutes.
The goal for good health is to get into the habit of moving every day, even if it's just for small periods of time. Five or ten minutes of movement can add up especially if you can do it several times a day.
Remember to use your common and good sense. If any movement causes you pain, stop that movement immediately. The old saying “ no pain no gain” is no longer an appropriate way to exercise. If you are unsure of the difference between pain and muscle soreness, please contact me for a complimentary workout on skype and I can show you many types of exercises that will not cause you pain.
Keep it simple, move more and eat less. (small, manageable changes are the key to success! - stay tuned for my next blog on how making small changes to your diet can really make big changes happen).
Going for walks outdoors is an excellent way to get exercise. A camera and photos are a good way to inspire you to get moving. Here are a couple of pictures from my previous photo- walks:
(blog content by alex; edited by ingrid)