As part of our series on creating optimum health, we’ll begin by exploring the role of exercise. The key is to start small for fitness . . . but start.
There’s a man living in our community who bases his entire retirement life on his fitness schedule. At 86-years-old, he starts his day with a bike ride. Then he walks on the treadmill for an hour and lifts some weights. He plays either tennis or golf daily and finishes off his day with an hour’s swim.
Standing straight and tall, he has the energy, flexibility, and body of a much younger man. He also has a schedule that would exhaust most of us. No wonder he takes a nap every day!
This story is both inspirational and daunting!
Many of us fail to fulfill our health resolutions because we try to do too much too soon. We vow to completely overhaul our diets while working out like our 86-year-old example. Then we’ll top it off with a nightly yoga class for relaxation.
After about three days of starvation and the sore muscles that come from doing nothing to working out for hours every day, we’re so tired that we fall asleep on our yoga mat and just give up the whole darn plan. Drastic changes are not the way to succeed with healthy living.
Instead, we need to take some baby steps – to make some small changes: eat a little less and move a little more. Here are some suggestions for getting started with exercise.
- Set some goals that you can measure and check off. Don’t say, “I’ll get fit.” How are you going to measure that? Instead say, “I’ll walk for 30 minutes five days this week.” You’ll know if you fulfill your goal.
If you think that’s too much of a commitment, try breaking it down into smaller units. Try taking a ten-minute walk after every meal. This isn’t a bad way to get your 30 minutes of exercise a day. You don’t even have to go outside (although that’s nice). You can walk around your own living room if you want. I worked with a woman in her 90s who used this method. She faithfully walked for 10 minutes after breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That way she got more than 150 minutes of exercise every week, and she seemed years younger than her age.
- See if you can just add a little more activity into every day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park a little further from the store. Get up and walk around the house during commercials while watching TV.
- Get a dog. It will have to be walked! Plus you meet all those other dog lovers.
- Buy yourself a pedometer and go for 10,000 steps a day (but not the first week). There’s something so satisfying about seeing those numbers mount up. It gives you a real feeling of accomplishment.
- Get some great workout clothes. Sometimes that’s what you need to get out there.
- Sleep in your workout clothes. When you wake up in the morning, put your shoes on and go straight out the door.
- If you really don’t want to get started, just try to do something for five minutes. Most times, once you get started, you can keep going for 30 minutes.
The really good news about fitness is that it’s never too late to start. In fact, recent studies show that those who start exercising late in life reap even greater benefits than those who have been exercising all along!
If there is a fountain of youth, this is it! You are in control of your own life, so make up your mind to find something physical that you like to do – walking, swimming, tennis, yoga, water aerobics, dancing – the list is endless, and do it for 150 minutes a week. Start small . . . but start! You will be so glad you did.