How to Start Exercising and Stick to It
COVID-19 put many aspects of life on hold, including regular physical activity. Whether you are starting from scratch or trying to get back into a routine, starting to exercise can be a challenge. Many people struggle to get out of a sedentary rut that they have been in for months or years. Know that you are not alone, and there are many resources to help you along the way.
You already know all of the amazing benefits of exercise – improved mood, help with weight loss, reduce anxiety, reduced stress and improve sleep! If knowing all of the benefits of exercise was enough, everyone would be in shape! Getting into an exercise routine takes time – you will need a smart approach and the right mindset.
There are many barriers that tend to get in the way of exercise. Busy schedules, cost and lack of energy can make exercising more challenging; however, the biggest barriers are mental. Working exercise into your routine takes a lot of determination, and sticking to it requires discipline. These are not skills that are developed in a day, but they are skills that can be practiced.
Whatever your weight, age or fitness level, here are some tips that can help you get started.
Be Kind. It can be daunting to start a new exercise program or get back to the gym/workout classes after a brief hiatus. Maybe you aren’t where you want to be or where you were but you are committing to a lifestyle of exercise. Don’t beat yourself up about your fitness level. Instead, focus on what you are doing now, and how it will benefit your future self.
Focus. You do not have to lift the heaviest weights, or spend the most time at the gym to reap the benefits. In fact, adding just modest amounts of exercise to your weekly routine can have serious positive effects on your mental and physical health. World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of moderate-physical activity throughout the week. That’s only 30 minutes five times a week!
Set Goals. Expecting too much of yourself can lead to demotivation and ultimately, losing focus on the main objective. Set yourself a couple of S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) goals to help you stay on track. You didn’t get out of shape overnight, and you’re not going to instantly transform the way you look over a week or two at the gym. Focus on what you can control and what you’ve accomplished instead of focusing on the results. Consistency is key.
How much exercise do I need?
The World Health Organization recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise. You can complete 30 minutes of exercise 5 times per week or break it up even more by completing two 15 minute sessions per day. Every little extra bit of movement goes a long way to helping improve your health.
Getting into exercise safely
If you are starting from scratch or trying to get back into a routine, it is important to keep the following health precautions in mind:
- Get medical clearance first if you have health concerns such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or other chronic conditions
- Warm up. Warming up the body before exercise is incredibly important in order to avoid injury
- Cool Down. After completing your workout, it is important that you take a few minutes to cool down and allow your heart rate to return to its normal resting rate. A light walk or some gentle stretches should do the trick.
- Drink plenty of water. Drinking water is important to hydrate your body. Failing to drink enough water when you are exercising and overexerting yourself can lead to cramping and can be dangerous.
- Listen to your body. Most importantly, acknowledge how your body is filling during warm up, workout and cooldown. If you are feeling any discomfort, take a minute to assess whether it is something that can be alleviated with some rest or if you need to stop entirely. Don’t try to ‘power through’ the pain as often times it can make the situation much worse.
How to get into an exercise routine
Year after year there are people who make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight or to get back into shape and by February; they are back into their old ways. Science shows us that there is a right way to build habits.
Use Reminders. Research shows that reminders are the secret to success when it comes to forming exercise habits. A time of day, place, or cue that kicks off an automatic reaction and puts your routine into cruise control so there is nothing to think about when it comes to exercise. For example, lay your gym clothes out so when you get home from work you are prepared to go off to the gym. Find ways to incorporate these reminders into your everyday life.
Use Rewards. It is important to reward good behavior. People who exercise regularly already receive rewards like, more energy, better sleep and a better quality of life. However, these are longer term rewards. Choose something to look forward to after workout, maybe it’s a smoothie, or a warm bath or both!
How to stay motivated
Add variety. Even if you are doing your favourite exercises for a total of 150 minutes per week, you may find that you hit a rut or lose interest. That’s when it’s time to shake things up and try something new or alter the way things have been working for you in the past.
Write it down. Logging your activity can help you to increase your commitment and holds you accountable to your routine. Later on, you can refer back to it and admire how far you’ve come.
Community. Find a like-minded group of people to enjoy the social and physical benefits of physical activity. Having other people rooting for you and supporting you through the ups and downs helps keep motivation strong. You can join online fitness communities or perhaps join a community at your local gym.
Inspiration. Create an inspiration board or read a health and fitness article that inspires you to continue on your exercise journey. Sometimes just reading about people talking control of their health and well-being can be enough to motivate you to move your body.
It can be difficult to get back into exercise, especially when it has not been a priority for some time. That being said, you have the power to take control over your health and wellness through exercise and there is no better time to start (or re-start) than now. Reach out to our exercise professionals if you have any questions or concerns about your routine.