The Case for Exercise
By now, most adults are well aware of the physical and mental health benefits of exercise and understand the importance of engaging in some form of regular physical activity. As nations around the globe cope with life in a pandemic, business closures, social distancing, and changes in everyday schedules are disrupting just about every facet of live we consider to be normal — and exercise routines are no exception.
What about those individuals who weren’t active even before it became harder to be active?
This series addresses those folks. I know how easy it is to fall off the exercise wagon when it is coerced or feels forced. Despite lab results, a scale creeping (or sprinting) upwards, or even poor feeling and health concerns, it can be daunting to take the first step.
No need to insult your intelligence about the “Why” when it comes to exercise and its benefits. The real issue is “How”. How to get moving safely. How to find something you enjoy. How to just get off the couch.
Arthur Ashe, acclaimed Tennis Champion, gives us the best advice EVER: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can”. He was talking about taking on challenges, something I suspect he had quite a bit of experience doing on the court and off. Let us apply to beginning to exercise!
Start Where You Are
If you are on your couch, start there. Begin by writing what you hope to gain from taking the first step to a healthier you. List 3 to 5 consequences of remaining sedentary and 3 to 5 benefits or gains from being more active. Look at your list daily. It will help keep you focused on improving and motivated to keep trying.
Making exercise a part of a healthier lifestyle will not happen overnight. One unhealthy meal does not make a person unhealthy. One workout will not make a person healthy. It is the habits that ultimately define not just what we do, but who we are. Habits are build one choice at a time.
Use What You Have
I always suggest in home walking to start. Walking is low cost upstart and you already know how to do it. It is available at any time and in any weather. All you need are comfortable clothes and a good pair of well-fitting sneakers. They need not cost a lot. I just recently purchased a pair of name brand shoes on clearance for less than $30. They are supportive, comfortable, lightweight, and most importantly for me–they have memory foam inserts! Easy walking!
As you get started, review your benefit and consequence lists. Maybe add a statement about choosing to life a healthier life because of those benefits. You can always add to your list. Jot down about your thoughts surrounding exercise. Any patterns emerging?
The bottom line is that NOT exercising has become comfortable. To bust through this pattern, you will have be uncomfortable. Facts. You are going to have experience periods of discomfort to get to those benefits. So hopefully you have some killer benefits written down. Writing down a benefit like “lose weight” is not as motivating as “losing weight so that I feel proud of myself when I look in the mirror”. That is something you can SEE in your mind and FEEL that rush of pride.
Ready to move more? Let’s go!
Do What You Can
There are tons of workout at home videos for FREE on platforms like YouTube. Working out or even doing yoga from a seated position is still being active. It is a start and beats not doing anything. This is a marathon, not a sprint. If all you can do at first is 5 minutes, or 2 minutes, that is all you can do. You can do multiple short rounds throughout the day or you can just aim to improve by 15 or 30 seconds your next attempt!
The idea that you need to kill yourself when you are just starting out is not only preposterous, it most often has the opposite effect. The “No Pain, No Gain” thinking leads to discouragement, negative self talk, and frequently injuries. You are moving to improve your health. You are not in a competition. If you prefer to move your body with someone, find a buddy that will support free of shame or judgement. The online classes found through the Whole Health Fitness Online Gym has several online classes offered through different instructors (Yes, I am one!) that you do within a supportive community.
The second part of this series will look more ways to incorporate movement, namely walking into your day. For now, a true beginner or person who is overweight can focus on the following and still start to see benefits:
- Journal writing and reflection
- Putting on your walking shoes daily (whether you walk or not)
- Walking in home with a video or outdoors at a casual pace for as long as is doable.