How To Get Started: Exercise

October 2, 2017

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blog_habits02Exercise has a serious image problem. It is something that is essential to achieving a high quality of life, but many people have basic misconceptions about what it means to exercise and why they should do it. We are going to try to set the record straight here. Our goal is to not only going to get you moving more, but get you to love to move!

 

First, let’s get clear on what we are talking about when we say “exercise.” Exercising really just means energy expenditure. It’s the opposite of energy consumption, which is when you take in calories through food and beverages. Exercise is simply a physical means of burning calories.

We actually have some good news for you when talking about energy expenditure. Did you know that your body does it automatically, regardless of whether you move or not? This is what is called your Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR. It’s the number of calories your body burns while you are at rest. So when you add additional movement or activity to your day in the form of “exercise,” you are increasing your body’s ability to burn calories and fat.

Does this mean you have to spend five days a week at the gym or train for a marathon? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves! If you don’t consider yourself to be the classic definition of an “exerciser,” there are some simple ways to start to increase your energy expenditure on top of your BMR.

This brings us to some other news you might like. If you get out of bed each day and go about your daily routine, like shopping at the grocery store or cleaning the house, you are technically “exercising.” Your body is experiencing movement and activity that burns more calories.

Now that you know your body naturally burns calories at rest and with basic activity, the key to starting an exercise plan is to simply build on the duration and intensity of what you already do. With incremental changes, you should start to get a good grasp on why regular exercisers keep with it. It simply makes you feel good and keeps both body and mind strong.

Here are the simple steps to working your way up to a regular exercise routine:

Track the activity you are already doing.

If you remember from our “How To Get Started With Healthy Eating” post, the first step to any change is to first become aware of your current state. Like with food, you can keep a journal of your daily activities. Every day for a week or two, just write down what you did, how long you did it for, and your estimated intensity level. For instance, if you vacuumed the living room, jot down “Vacuuming, 10 minutes, light intensity.” You should even document things that you think wouldn’t count, like “Walked to mailbox, 4 minutes, light intensity” Each of your movements adds up! To take your tracking to the next level, you should consider using your iPhone health app and/or watch or a FitBit to see how many steps you take and calories you burn on specific days. You might be surprised by what the technology reveals, one way or another.

Make small but meaningful changes to build on your current activity.

Once you have the baseline of your initial tracking, it’s time to start making some small modifications. The main differences do not necessarily need to be the activities you choose, but rather in the duration and/or intensity with which you do them. For instance, take the “Walked to the mailbox, 4 minutes, light intensity” entry. You can easily improve the effects of your exercise by adding some time to that task, like choosing a longer route back to the house. It can be something like, “Walked to the mailbox and returned to the house through the back entrance, 8 minutes, light intensity.” It may seem small, but you doubled your walking time. Or, with the vacuuming example, add a little weight to the head of the vacuum. This would turn your “10-minute, light intensity exercise” into a “10-minute, moderate intensity” exercise. These small changes may not seem like much at first, but the create a positive cumulative effect on your health. The better you feel, the more adjusting upward you will want to do. This will most likely include adding new activities most people know as classic exercise.

Surround yourself with caring friends who will hold you accountable.

Once you reach a level where exercise becomes a prioritized routine in your life, you will have a better chance of sticking with it if you have friends with a similar mindset and set of goals. This can mean finding neighbors who will join you on a daily stroll or light jog around the block. Or if you join a gym, find a group fitness class that is your speed, and make sure to connect with other members. You know you have fitness as a common interest, but chances are you’ll find so much more on which to connect. Having the support will not only help you elevate your physical fitness game, but make it much more enjoyable in the process.

Find your motivation in how exercise makes you feel.

This last step in integrating more exercise into your life is really a great milestone achievement. If you find yourself frustrated with missing a group aerobics class or a run along the river, congratulations. You are now among the initiated.

The truth is that while it can be challenging and hard in the moment of that sprint or lift, the elation you feel after you’ve done it far outweighs that pain. Once you internalize just how wonderful a regular exercise routine makes you feel in your body, head, and heart, those moments become deeply personal, gratifying challenges. They prompt you to run faster, jump higher, and achieve more.

We hope this has helped you see that even if you don’t consider yourself to be an “exerciser,” you probably already are and don’t realize it. You just need to take those small steps to turn up the volume on exercise, which will help you achieve better health overall. That’s really what exercise should be known for, and you have the power to make it happen.

Note: Before starting any exercise or physical activity program, always consult your doctor or medical provider for safety.

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