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Feature Articles: Exercise


Get active by starting simple

Most of us are aware that physical activity reduces our risk for chronic health problems like obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. Yet, many people struggle to make physical activity part of their ongoing daily routine.


You’ve heard the expression, “Just do it!” However, according to Lynda Johnson, Nutrition & Health Education Specialist with University of Missouri Extension, it’s important not to over do it when you start exercising. The expression “no pain, no gain” is a myth and, in the end, discourages people from staying active, says Johnson. To succeed at making physical activity part of your lifestyle, it’s important that the activity be enjoyable. By being kind to your body and realistic with your expectations, you will feel energized by the activity and not worn out. And best of all, you will have a sense of satisfaction from accomplishing what you set out to do.


Set goals to get you moving
Setting specific, manageable goals can lead to steady progress, and result in physical activity becoming part of your weekly routine. As with anything, you need a plan of attack in order to succeed. It’s not enough to say, “I’m going to start walking on a regular basis.” This goal is too vague and too difficult to measure. Define your goal with more specifics, such as, “I will walk for 15 minutes three times a week over my lunch hour with my co-worker, Jan.”


In her book, The ‘I hate to exercise’ book for people with diabetes, Charlotte Hayes provides some guidelines for setting goals to help get you moving:


  • Be specific. Decide what you want to accomplish – walk, ride a bike, lift weights or join an aerobics class. Determine where and when you will do the activity. Write it down on your calendar or set an appointment reminder on your phone. Who will support you in your goal? It helps to have someone that you are accountable to.
  • Be realistic. Keep the amount of activity you plan to do at a comfortable, manageable level. Can you confidently accomplish your goal or plan?
  • Think short term. To succeed at making a lifestyle change to become more physically active, keep it simple. Start by setting goals for a couple of days a week, then build from there. Make sure your short-term goals guide you toward your long-term goal of active living.
  • Be flexible. Circumstances can change, so be willing to modify or reset goals. Have a backup plan and find new alternatives to challenging situations or roadblocks. If your walk is rained out, plan a backup activity such as working out with an exercise video. If it gets too hot to walk at lunch, walk early in the morning. But above all, avoid “all or none” thinking. Some days you might not have time for your entire 30 minute walk, but taking a quick 15 minute walk will keep you on pace with your routine.
  • Reward yourself. As you achieve your weekly or monthly goals, recognize your accomplishment. Hayes emphasizes to make rewards meaningful and something that will reinforce your goal. Examples might include new walking shoes, an exercise video or placing money in a jar to save for something special.


The biggest hurdle to overcome is getting started! Decide today to make a plan. Think of what you can realistically do tomorrow or the next day. According to Hayes, it’s important to take the “one day at a time” or “one week at a time” approach. Plan short exercise sessions, such as 10 or 15 minutes at a time, and build from there. Week by week, you can increase your physical activity until you reach 30 minutes of activity most days of the week.


Make movement a priority!
How often have you said, “I don’t have time to exercise.” If you are like most people, you do have a lot on your plate. However, take a closer look at how you use your time. In actuality, you have chosen to use your time for things other than physical activity. Look at your weekly schedule. Consider writing in time to exercise just as you would make an appointment to visit the dentist. It’s important to recognize that you do have choices about using your time.


Ways to meet your activity goals may include waking up slightly earlier to take a short walk or do some stretching, walking during your lunch break, or working out with chair exercises while watching TV at night. Keep a record of your activities on a calendar, in a notebook or on your computer.


When something is important, most people make time for it. Why not make time for fun, enjoyable physical activities.


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Last update: Monday, January 12, 2015