It’s that time of year – we overeat, we get too busy to exercise, and at the New Year we make that dreaded resolution: I’m going to exercise more.
Although we start the year well, most of us fall off the wagon and our exercise routine ends just as quickly as it started. We CAN succeed this year – and here are some basic, simple tips for Safe Exercise that will last:
- Realistic Goals – Be realistic when you set goals for yourself. For example, if you haven’t been that weight since you were 17, it may not be a realistic goal for you today. Set a goal to pack your lunch instead of picking up fast food everyday – that may be more realistic for you as a starting point.
- Do the Easy Things – Use the stairs at work, pack your lunch, and generally eat healthier. In addition, decrease your screen time; decreasing the time we’re staring at a phone, computer, or tv screen will probably reduce our sitting time.
- Do Things You Like – Running is a great example. If you love to run, running is a great activity – but if you hate running, you probably won’t be consistent with it, and you certainly won’t look forward to it. In other words, if you pick an activity or exercise that you enjoy, you’ll be more likely to be consistent with it. Everyone’s program doesn’t need to be the same – do things that YOU like.
- Consistency – Be consistent with EXERCISE and DIET. In other words, try to be consistent with your exercising, and try to be consistent with your diet, but realize that we all miss a day or a week here and there. If you fall off the wagon one day or for one week, get back on the next day or the next week. Stick with it.
- Keep Your Activity Brisk – Strolling along at a leisurely pace isn’t the kind of exercise I am recommending. In fact, research has been encouraging patients to push themselves more in their exercise than in the past. The American Academy of Sports Medicine recommends moderate to higher intensity work a couple of times a week for those more advanced in their exercising.
For most of us, if we make sure that we walk briskly (instead of strolling), we can feel our body warming up (from our exercise), and we begin to breathe more heavily during exercise, we’ll be gaining more benefit from our exercise.
- Don’t be afraid to involve an expert – Yes, that means “ask for help.” If you haven’t been to a gym or fitness center for a long time, get some help and advice when you first go in. If you haven’t been watching what you eat until now, some basic nutritional help could go a long way toward giving you a good start.
- Develop an Effective Routine – If you can, your routine should include some strength, some flexibility, and some aerobic training. Without a well-rounded routine, you may be at risk for injury.
Consider a 40-year-old woman who runs for exercise 30 minutes, 5 days per week. By trading 2 running days for strength and flexibility training, she could decrease her injury risk, improve her running performance and increase the rate she burns calories.
- Do some Interval Training – What’s interval training? Mix in some periods of high intensity training with your moderate training. As we get older, we tend to push ourselves less – intentionally mixing in some higher intensity intervals will help to prevent that.
- Try a Class – Go ahead – try Pilates. Try Yoga. Maybe try a Boot Camp class. Try something new and see if you like it.
- Buddy System – Pairing up with someone else on a regular basis for exercise or diet will provide you with someone who can hold you accountable – and give you encouragement when you need it! It’s usually more effective to have a buddy than to exercise in isolation – so pair up with someone.
- Plan it in Your Calendar – Making time for exercise, intentionally, goes a long way to being able to maintain your exercise routine. We tend to put the things we feel are important in our calendar – make exercise important enough to put it in your calendar, and you’ll be more likely to follow through and do it.
- Reward Yourself – Yes, it’s really ok to reward yourself. When you reach a short term goal – even a little one – give yourself a small reward. When you reach a longer term goal, give yourself a bigger reward.
- Be Patient – With yourself, yes. Give yourself time to reach your goals – including every step along the way. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself that you end up disappointed and discouraged and you give up. Start your diet and exercise program by reminding yourself to be patient.
What I hope you gather from this list is that maintaining a safe exercise routine is not a one-size-fits-all thing. In fact, finding the best way for you to combine safe exercise and a healthy diet – and then sustain it – may be any combination of the tips I’ve listed. Find what works for you, and then keep doing it, and you can follow through on this year’s New Year’s Resolutions!
Dr. DesJardins is a Sports Medicine Specialist with Commonwealth Orthopaedic Centers. He serves as a Team Physician for NKU athletics and Cooper High School, and is a member of the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee for the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.