September 22, 2010

Getting Exercise to Stick Takes Time

Since the 1970s (probably even earlier) research has been growing in the areas of exercise science. What to do, how much to do, when to do it, what to avoid, and what we have learned "since then". I remember the days we used to do all sortsa crazy stretches only to learn now that it was "the wrong way". We used to stretch before exercise, now you wait until the end of exercise. We used to run in nothing but Keds and now we run in computer supported high-tech pieces of art (although the research is now going back to running in almost nothing but a piece of rubber...go figure).

So, if you are beginning an exercise program and are like most, you are probably asking what, how, where, when, and even why.  My plan with this post, today, is to answer a few of these questions keeping the theme of behaviour change, life long change, and the challenges most face when beginning a new program. Keep in mind, this is following the last post of eating less and eating whole; now I'm focusing on the next important aspect of healthy, life long weight loss...exercise.

Research suggests that an accumulation of 60 minutes a day of cardiovascular exercise keeps us healthy and helps to maintain weight (coupled with a healthy diet). There are not many people I know that do 60 minutes of cardio a day unless they are in the fitness industry, training for a sport, or mending a broken heart. So what is a "normal" person to do?

There is another suggestion that this 60 minutes of activity is accumulative. Meaning, if you were to walk 10 minutes in the morning, 10 at noon, etc. you may get the same benefits. A calorie burned is a calorie burned. So if 10 minutes is what you know you can do per that. Do that faithfully for five days per week for one month. You may be very tempted to add more but we are talking behaviour change here...not physiological adaptations (i.e. weight loss, muscle strength increases, cardio strength increases). This is a habit forming program. You can certainly obtain the benefits later, once you have adhered to a program.

Once you have your month down, add five minutes and do another month at 5 days / week. Whatever you exercise choice (biking, walking, swimming, StairMaster, step, walking up and down your stairs, is all cardio work). Once you have done 15 per day for five days a week for one month....add another 5 minutes for another month (you get the idea). If there is a month where you are struggling to get in your exercise and you didn't make your goal, repeat for another month until you do.

I completely understand how this program would be frustrating. We all want results fast and we seldom see the benefits of slow. BUT...think ahead one year. In a year you will have worked up to 60 minutes of activity per day for five days of the week. By then, you will have probably increased your intensity, gotten into some other activities, and definitely experienced some weight loss. The chances of you being injury free is high because you started slowly and YOU HAVE CHANGED YOUR LIFESTYLE!!!!

I have put clients through this program and the results have been amazing. They are still exercising to this day and the most exciting result is the commitment they have to exercise so much so that when life takes over and they have no time...they make the time. That is the difference between someone who hasn't bought into exercise and someone who has.

If you are still not sure, think about it this way. Imagine yourself, your life, your situation, 10 or 20 years from now. Better still, imagine your retirement years. Do you want to be a healthy, energetic, vivacious, happy person enjoying their retirement savings and saying yes to opportunities without hesitation or do you want to be the person who has to think about their limitations before going out. Do you really want to live your retirement in aches and pains with little to no energy to do anything? I highly doubt anyone desires that outcome. If you want to live your life well YOU MUST BEGIN AN EXERCISE PROGRAM! I cannot state that more clearly. Every day you put it off is a day closer to retirement.

You can enjoy exercise (I promise), you can go slow, you can do it with friends, and you can learn to love it to the point it isn't a question of doing is a lifestyle. Just like eating and drinking, exercise can be just as important to you that you just don't argue with yourself to do it.  And here's the final kicker..the more you do, the more you do it. The less you do, the less you are apt to do it. It's the law of inertia really.

So, to recap, focus on one change at a time. If you prefer examining your diet, do that. Watch your serving sizes, move to whole food eating, and make the change. Once that is becoming a habit, move towards exercise. Follow the above steps to life long commitment and you should feel like a whole new person in 12 months. Of course, I haven't focused on resistance training or flexibility. I will do that next time.

And please remember, I have an email address, you can contact me. I would love to offer suggestions that are geared towards your situation. Do not hesitate to email any questions or concerns you may have. I just want to see people move for life.

That's all I got.

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