It’s 2019 and you’ve decided to start exercising, Congratulations! You’ve taken the first step to improving your body and mind… but how do you get started?
The Exercise Physiologists here at BJC Health know how hard it can be to take the first steps when it comes to exercise.
It can be scary, daunting and exciting all at the same time!
We appreciate you might have tried before and failed – that’s okay! Perhaps you were consistent for a few weeks but struggled to keep the momentum going, or maybe you’ve heard stories from friends and family who started exercising, but then didn’t get the results they were hoping for…
We understand that exercise can certainly be a tricky habit to start. As such, we’ve developed some tips to help you commence regular exercise safely. We feel that just like when you’re building anything, you need the right materials before you get started (and I don’t just mean those fantastic new pair of shoes you got for Christmas!)
If you are starting exercise after a long break or for the very first time, the first step is to complete an appropriate screening assessment. Some individuals will need a little more care before getting started, but here are a few of the questions we (or other health care providers) might ask before we start exercising.
Are you a Male over the age of 45, or a Female over the age of 55?
o If yes, ask your GP for medical clearance before commencing any exercise, to ensure you are safe to do so if you have any major health risks (including but not limited to: high blood pressure, pre-existing heart conditions, diabetes, etc.)
Are you recovering from an injury or a major surgery?
o Exercise is a great tool to help rehabilitate your body and can assist with a quicker recovery, but assistance from an appropriate Allied Health Professional (such as an Exercise Physiologist or Physiotherapist) can safeguard against unwanted complications and risk of re-injury.
Now that’s covered, let’s get to our tips!
1) The Tortoise was right
Everyone knows the famous fable about the Tortoise and the Hare – the former wins the race against the latter because he was SLOW and STEADY.
We can apply this lesson to exercise. We recommend that you don’t jump straight into a rigorous exercise program. Instead, start by adding a small amount of physical activity to your daily life first.
Taking the stairs, walking to work, stepping off the bus one stop early, or standing up whenever you take a phone call are examples that you could try first.
We know that every little bit can add up and this can be a safe way to start.
2) It’s all about goals
By far one of the most important steps to successfully start exercising – set some goals!
And not just big hairy ones like “Lose some weight.” Ideally they need to be realistic, achievable, and measurable.
For example: “I would like to lose 5kg in 10 weeks so I can move with more ease” – it ticks all the boxes. But 10 weeks is quite a long time - think about what you can achieve in the short-term too.
Short-term intentions should focus on how you’ll get to your end goal; think of it as a process rather than an outcome. For example: “I will walk 30 minutes every day this week” is part of what will help you achieve your longer term weight loss goal.
3) Find what you love!
No one is asking you to like burpees (I don’t). Exercise becomes a lot easier if you do something you enjoy. We also appreciate the gym isn’t for everyone, but thankfully there are plenty of activities you can do that will put a smile on your face; hiking, bike-riding, swimming, Yoga, or dancing - just to name a few! When you do enjoyable, meaningful physical activities, you’re more likely to stick to it and stay motivated!
4) Do you have a Buddy?
Similar to the suggestion above, having someone to exercise with can make it more enjoyable. Not only will your session likely be more fun, but you’ll both keep each other accountable! A number of our clients find our group sessions helpful for this very reason. Booking a time, and knowing you will see familiar faces can go a long way to keeping yourself moving forward toward your goals.
5) Planning is paramount
Fail to plan, plan to fail – we feel that starting exercise is no different.
We set dates with friends and family, make restaurant reservations, call ahead to schedule a doctor’s appointment, so why not plan your exercise sessions?
Just like goal-setting, be specific with your plan – don’t just set a date you can walk, make sure you know the time of day and for how long you plan to walk.
You’ll be more likely to achieve your goals if you set up days and/or times when you know you can do your planned activity. This is particularly important in the early stages of building your new habit.
6) When in doubt, reach out…
We all have trouble with motivation at some point. The fact that you’re even THINKING about starting exercise should be celebrated – but what if you just don’t know what to do, or are unsure of what you can cope with? Don’t worry, you are not alone!
Accredited Exercise Physiologists like myself are university-qualified health professionals who know all about how to get people started and stick to an exercise plan, no matter the individual or the goal!
We hope these suggestions are useful for you or someone you know who is considering starting regular exercise. If you have any questions, feel free to drop us a comment below or book in an initial assessment with one of our Accredited Exercise Physiologists to help you make those first steps!