In my previous blog I spoke a lot about the importance of physical activity is achieving and sustaining successful weight-loss. In so doing we have covered the question as to why exercise is necessary. In this blog we are going to tackle what adequate physical activity is and how we are going to achieve this.
WHAT IS ADEQUATE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
The American Heart Association describes that adequate exercise (conducive to a healthy heart) involves being physically active for:
- 30 minutes five times a week OR
- 45 minutes four times a week
This may sound a lot if your current exercise consists of getting up to make coffee or bathroom breaks. Before you panic, remember that this is the end goal that we are striving towards. It will take time and a bit of trial and error. At the end of the day any small changes that you make now and sustain is already one step closer to your goal and weight loss success. Let’s get moving!
STEP 1 : RECON MISSION
Military mission all start with a reconnaissance mission to familiarise oneself with the surroundings. Similarly,we first need to have a clear idea of exactly what fitness opportunities are available to you and more importantly, which ones are fun, feasible and exciting.
Take time each day to do a bit of research on possible physical activities presented in the area near you. Remember to find out where these activities are, what time they are presented and what the cost will be.
A few factors to consider are:
- Did you do any sport when you were younger that you particularly enjoyed/ were good at? Is there a possibility of reintroducing this back into your lifestyle?
- Are there possibilities of doing exercise at work (for example are there large, safe grounds for walking or running, a swimming pool or a gym available?).
- Do you have friends, family or associates that are also interested in getting fit?
- Take note of the gyms close to you, their costs, hours and services they provide. Are any of these exciting or feasible for you?
- If gyms are too expensive, are there any public facilities like tennis/ badminton/ squash courts around you? What about golf courses, public parks or swimming pools?
- Where is the closest park run to you? Would you be able to walk/ run this every week with a sibling/ friend/ family member or partner?
- Do you have a pet that you can walk? Is there an area close by to you that you can use to take them for a walk(bear in mind that many public parks/ golf courses have rules about admitting pets onto the premises)?
- If you are a busy mom, is there any point in the day where you are waiting in the car, but you could be doing exercise as well? Going for a brisk walk/ run on the school or sports grounds is a very realistic option.
These are just some of many points to consider. If you have trouble coming up with options, consult with a dietitian, medical practitioner or fitness coach.
STEP 2: COMMIT AND SET A PLAN TO INCORPORATE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY INTO YOUR LIFESTYLE
Now that we have a few possibilities to work with, it is time to choose one that you will commit to a certain number of times a week.
The first step is to handle the concept of commitment. Remember we need to be smart and realistic about this plan. If you are doing the bare minimum of exercise at the moment, it would be unrealistic to try and commit to an intensive exercise regime five days per week. This would be setting an unrealistic goal, that when it fails, leads to demotivation to continue with the project altogether. Rather aim to start with it at least once a week – once you achieve and sustain this we can look at increasing it. When I say intensive exercise, I mean a proper work out session of at least half an hour where you break a sweat. This could be anything from attending a gym aerobics class, doing a Park Run, doing a cycle/ run challenge to playing a sports match.
If you are already doing exercise once or twice a week, why not look at slotting another exercise session in. Remember to keep this exciting, you have to continue to challenge yourself.
Some factors to consider:
- Does the selected activity fit in with your work hours, time schedule and dead-lines?
- Is the activity safe (from both a medical and security point of view?)
- Will the activity be cost effective on a monthly basis?
- What commitments will the activity have?
- Is transportation to and from the activity feasible?
- Is the activity exciting to you?
STEP 3: KEEP MOVING
Committing to an exercise work out is already a major step in the right direction so give yourself a pat on the back for that one! This does not mean, however, that we can spend the rest of the week being a couch potato. Try to use at least two of the other days of the week to increase physical activity in small ways. To monitor your progress, I would really recommend that you download a step counter. Technology has made it significantly easier to keep track of our total step counts each day. Having a step counter allows you to note at what point you are with your physical activity now, what your goal will be and whether or not you are achieving this goal.
A few tips to increase your steps are:
- Using the stairs instead of the lift.
- Parking the car further away from the entrance of the building.
- Walking or riding a bike to the shops.
- Climbing off the bus one stop earlier and walking the remainder of the way.
- Walking over to talk to a co-worker instead of sending an email or calling them.
- Taking a quick brisk walk to your car and back during lunch time
- Using a bathroom on a different floor or on the other side of the building.
- Making plans with friends to go for a walk in the park/ play a game of frisbee instead of meeting up for dinner/ drinks.
Remember to consider security and work rules if you are thinking about implementing any of these tips!
If you would like something more structured or challenging you can always install a fitness app on your phone and do a quick work out before going to work in the morning. There are a wide variety of options available and many of them do have varying degrees of difficulty. I am currently undertaking a thirty-day fitness challenge. I take about ten minutes to complete the routine and it definitely involves breaking a sweat but at the same time is still doable.
STEP 4: MAKE THESE CHANGES A ROUTINE
Once you have decided on your exercise plan make this part of your weekly routine. This plan should be perceived in the same way as getting dressed, taking a shower, washing your hands or any other element of selfcare; as non-negotiable. The sooner you make regular physical activity a habit, the sooner it will seem like second nature.
STEP 5: HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN
Life happens and sometimes work, family obligations or even the weather can interfere with one’s proposed exercise plan. It is therefore important to have a back-up plan from the beginning. Ideas can include using work out videos from the internet or buying gym or exercise equipment at home in case of foul weather or even having an exercise buddy for when you are not feeling motivated. Whatever the back up plan is, make sure that it falls within your capabilities and is still challenging enough.
STEP 6: REASSESS YOUR EXERCISE PLAN EVERY MONTH
Take time once a month to assess your progress. Are you achieving your goals? If not, what is the reason? Is the exercise not enjoyable or as exciting as you as you expected? Or are your goals too challenging? Alternatively, is the exercise regime getting too easy? Is it time to increase the amount of exercise you do every week? Constantly reassessing your progress and ensuring that you are on the right track yet still being challenged and making adjustments accordingly is key to your road to success.
Exercise is a key component to maintain any healthy lifestyle and there is no better time than the present to start slowly increasing one’s physical activity and sustaining these behaviours. Remember that it is normal that this process takes some time. The most important factor is to keep going and to sustain these behaviours. Doing so is key in ensuring success in your journey to optimal health.