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News Room: ENQUIRER: To get active means you first have to get started

To download a pdf of this article, please click here.

By: Toni Schklar

In the American culture, fitness is not the norm. Physical activity is good for you regardless of your age. Becoming active takes self-initiative, determination, formulation of new habits and commitment to live a healthy life. Fitness is an investment in self and a gift to people you love.

Being active can help you:
  • Have more energy to do the things you want to do.
  • Improve your balance.
  • Prevent or delay some diseases like obesity (just recently classified as a disease), heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
  • Reduce anxiety and depression.
  • Channel anger and frustration into productive outlets.

If you have been inactive, beginning with a physician consultation can help reduce risk of injury and enhance your success in achieving your goals. Lab work and/or additional tests may be suggested to be sure your health is optimal for embarking on your activity / fitness goal.

Success Factors:

  • Set realistic, achievable goals.
  • Identify your non-compliance issues (laziness, procrastination, fear, low self-esteem, embarrassment) and remind yourself that these are within your control.
  • Select a physical activity regimen that fits you. Look at your personal likes and dislikes. Are you a club membership person, a solo exerciser, equipment user, or nature walker? Do you have a predictable schedule or do you need a fitness activity that can flex with your variable work hours?
  • Approach goals incrementally (avoid the weekend warrior fitness strategy).
  • If you lose motivation, set new goals or try a new activity. You may have to try several activities to learn which one(s) is right for you.
  • Warm up and cool down with easy walking or gentle stretching.
  • Work your way up to 30-60 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Shorter but more frequent sessions have aerobic benefits, too. Ten-minute sessions throughout the day may be easier for you.
  • Be creative and avoid boredom. Get fit through a variety of activities such as walking, dancing, rowing, Wii, hiking, bicycling, and formal sports (baseball, soccer, volleyball).
  • Listen to your body. If you feel pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or nausea, take a break. You may be pushing yourself too hard.
  • Be flexible. If you’re not feeling good, give yourself permission to take a day or two off.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink water even if you aren’t thirsty.

Four types of fitness activity

  • Endurance: Try to build up to at least 30 minutes of activity that makes you breathe hard on most or all days of the week. Every day is best because it builds your energy or “staying power.” Ten minutes at a time is fine. Note: It you watch an hour TV show and do some kind of exercise on every commercial (walking around the couch is better than sitting through the commercial) you will have given yourself 10 minutes of exercise. If you can talk without any trouble at all, you are not working hard enough. If you can’t talk at all, it’s too hard.
  • Strength: Exercises using weights to build muscles. Don’t hold your breath during strength exercises (could cause changes in your blood pressure). You should breathe out as you lift and breathe in as you relax. Always bend forward from the hips, not the waist. If you keep your back straight, you’re probably bending the right way. Always lift with your knees bent.
  • Balance: Tai Chi, Yoga, walking, ballet.
  • Flexibility: Yoga, stretching.

Ways to stay accountable:

  • Put yourself on your calendar every day. View this as a commitment and don’t cancel on yourself.
  • Mark four calendar days per week with a physical activity.
  • Create variety in your activity choices so that you have options if the weather is bad or your buddy can’t join you.
  • Commit to a fitness regimen with another person or group. Keep in mind that if the other person doesn’t adhere to his/her commitment, you have to be strong enough to stick with yours.

Tips for persevering

  • Only invest in equipment that you know you’ll use. The best utilized pieces of equipment are a pedometer and shoes that correctly fit your feet and are designed for the type of exercise you’ll be doing.
  • Journal your experiences and evaluate your efforts so you can see your progress.
  • Modify your regimen to keep stimulated and invested.
  • Above all: If what you’re doing isn’t working, change it; don’t stop!

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