Starting to Exercise at any Age Part 2
Why we all need to Exercise
Today we continue from part 1 of our blog on exercise. Part 1 discussed the amazing benefits you can enjoy from being more active and looked at the minimum recommended physical activity you should be getting. In this section, we provide the best tips on how to incorporate more physical activity or exercise into your day, and doing so safely. We also look at common obstacles that might be standing in your way and provide helpful tips on how to overcome these. We still aim to emphasize why we all need to exercise!
1. Where to Start?
Perhaps you already feel overwhelmed just by the thought of exercise. Remember that you don’t have to join a gym or sign up for bootcamp. There are several ways to be more physically active. Just moving your body for 30 minutes a day will provide health benefits.
First of all, you need to determine your “why”. What is your reason to start being more physically active? Set you own goal. Your goal can be anything from running a marathon, reducing your stress levels, managing your health condition or fitting into your favourite jeans. However, make sure your goal is realistic and achievable for you. Having a goal will keep you motivated.
A very helpful way to create a goal is by using the S.M.A.R.T. principle:
S – SPECIFIC : what, where and how you will achieve your goal
M – MEASURABLE : how you will determine whether you met your goal
A – ACHIEVABLE : a goal you can accomplish
R – REALISTIC : a goal that is challenging but attainable within your abilities
T – TIMELY : the timeframe in which you want to achieve your goal
Once you have a goal, start creating a plan on how you can achieve your goal. If you have a long-term goal, break it up into smaller short-term goals. Review your schedule and identify times when you can fit in some physical activity. Prioritise and block these times out to ensure that you stick to it.
Your physiotherapist can help you create a plan that is best suited for you. Taking into consideration your current health status and abilities, your goals, and your schedule, we will help you find a way to be more physically active and enjoy every moment of it!
Alternatively, you can do some research or talk to people who do regular physical activity to get some ideas and to help guide you. Also try to find someone who can hold you accountable. Ask someone to join you, or simply share your goal with someone so they can support and encourage you by frequently checking in on your progress. Subscribing to an online program or getting a personal trainer are other great ways to get started.
Before starting an exercise program, however, always discuss it with a healthcare professional first. You can schedule an appointment with us or consult your doctor. This is especially important if you have any existing health problems, injuries or pain, or have not been physically active for a long time.
This is another great way to get started. Habit stacking involves building new routines around already existing ones, or things you already do out of habit, e.g. switching on the kettle first thing in the morning or taking off your shoes as soon as you get home. The more you do something, the stronger that connection becomes in your brain. Essentially, that is what a habit is; an activity that has been repeated over time that now happens almost automatically. By taking advantage of these already existing strong connections, you can successfully build new habits.
You are more likely to succeed if you link a new habit to a connection (or habit) that is already fixed in your brain. The already existing habit then serves as a cue for the new habit. Use the habit stacking formula as follows:
After/Before [your current habit], I will [New habit]
For example: ‘Before I eat my lunch, I will do 10 push-ups’, if you decide to incorporate some physical activity into your lunch time. Or if you want to do some exercise after work: After taking off my work shoes, I will immediately change into my workout clothes. In these examples, the lunch and the act of taking off your shoes serve as the cues for you to do your activity.
Try to identify a habit you currently do every day and use that to incorporate your new habit.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit” – Aristotle
Tips on how to incorporate more physical activity into your day
If you can join a gym, exercise class or online program, schedule times to attend these. Alternatively, get your recommended amount of physical activity by splitting it into 30 minute sessions 5x per week. A short 30 minute session is enough to get your body moving, and easy to work into your day. Choose activities that you enjoy but also don’t be afraid to try something new.
Some ideas on how to be more active at work:
- Go for a walk during your lunch break
- Ride your bicycle or walk to work
- Take the stairs whenever possible
- Suggest having walking meetings to your co-workers
- Have activity breaks during meetings or conferences and encourage all attendees to move
- Set a reminder to get up every 30 minutes to move around and stretch
- Suggest ergonomically friendly furniture such as standing desks to your employer
- Stand or walk around when taking phone calls, and use hands-free headsets where possible
- Place things like files, printers etc. far from your desk to encourage you to walk further
Some ideas on how to be more active at home:
- Make it a tradition to go for a walk before or after dinner
- Take your dogs for a walk
- Try activities with your family e.g. online dance classes or play virtual sports games with the kids
- Make physical activity a priority on the weekend – find activities in your community e.g. family fun runs, cycling events or hiking spots
- Turn chores into a workout e.g. do 10 squats before hanging your washing
- Walk around, do calf raises or squats while brushing your teeth
- Do some gardening
Remember: consistency is key. Start with what you can do, but do it consistently, and soon you will reap the great benefits of physical activity!
How to overcome common obstacles
It is so easy to find an excuse not to exercise. As physiotherapists, we understand that you may have things that keep you from exercising. You may not enjoy exercise, have an injury or a health condition, or simply struggle to find time, energy or motivation to exercise. However, knowing the amazing benefits that you can enjoy from it, we want to empower you to start being more active. Here are some tips on how to overcome obstacles that may be preventing you from doing so:
1. No time
Monitor your daily schedule for a few days and identify three 30 minute time slots in which you can add some activity. This could be during your lunch time, while watching television or even before getting ready for work in the morning. Make sure to plan ahead by scheduling your physical activities into your diary or calendar. Also prepare for your activity e.g. putting out your clothes the night before.
2. No-one to do it with you
Talk to friends or family to see who would be interested in joining you. Try to plan social events around physical activities such as hiking or rock climbing. Play games while having a braai with friends. Most gyms and exercise facilities offer group classes that you can join. You might even make some new friends here.
3. Lack of Energy
Schedule your activities for times when you feel most energetic. If you are tired after work, try a morning workout, or do it in your lunch time. Remember that being more active will increase you energy levels in the long term. It will clear your mind and allow you to be more productive during your day.
4. Fear of Injury
Before starting an exercise program, speak to your physiotherapist. We can advise you on what activities are safe for you to do based on your age, health status, abilities and goals. Make sure to warm up before, and cool down after exercise to prevent injuries. Start slowly and increase your activity gradually over time so that your body can adapt safely without being overloaded.
5. Believing that you don’t have the abilities
Start with activities that you feel comfortable and safe with. However, don’t be afraid to try something new like dance classes or yoga. Try some beginner classes online as a start. And give yourself time, you might find that you really enjoy these new activities.
6. Financial restraints
Gyms or other fitness institutions can be costly. Start with activities that you can do at home or in your community that don’t require special equipment. Walking, jogging, hiking, cycling, skipping or doing online classes are great options to start with.
Safety during Exercise
When starting an exercise program or increasing your physical activity, start slowly with something you are comfortable with. Doing too much too quickly will stress your body and mind, and can result in overuse injuries and fatigue. This will discourage you. Be observant of how your body responds to the activity and allow it to adapt. If you experience any pain or discomfort, stop and rest before continuing, or adjust the type of activity you are doing. Your physiotherapist can assist you in how to modify activities and exercise safely and help you do them without pain or discomfort.
Make sure you have the appropriate equipment for your chosen activity. Well-fitting clothes and the proper shoes will help to make you feel more comfortable and prevent injuries. When using new equipment such as weights or a bicycle, make sure to get some advice on how to use it safely. Start out with basic training and progress to more advanced training as your fitness and confidence improves.
Stay hydrated. Keep your fluid intake regular even on rest days. Dehydration can cause cramps, muscle soreness and a drop in energy, which will alter your body’s recovery process. Also make sure to fuel your body with nutritious food. Increasing your activity levels will require more energy.
We hope we have inspired you to be more active! Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. We can help create the perfect plan for you, so that you can enjoy the incredible benefits of being active!