Exercise protects you from disease. Exercise makes you stronger. Exercise helps you do things more easily – lift luggage, walk up stairs to an office, run after your child. Exercise relieves stress. There are many good reasons to exercise. So, knowing all this, why do you not exercise? You may say that you cannot afford gym membership or afford the equipment you think you need for exercise. Or you may say that you do not have the time to exercise. Or you may say that exercise is difficult.
Let us address these concerns one by one:
1) Cost: Well, the truth is, you can exercise without expensive equipment or without joining a gym or aerobics class. You can perform bodyweight exercises or use minimal equipment like a skipping rope, items found in your house or running shoes. That means that as long as you are able-bodied, you can start exercising at low or no cost. Today.
2) Time: We all make time for the things we consider important, or things that we find pleasant. We tend to put off things we find difficult, or unpleasant or unnecessary. The same applies to exercise. We may agree that it is important, but we think it is difficult or too demanding, and hence unpleasant. The good news is, you can spare as little as 30 minutes or less a day, 3 days a week and get reasonable exercise, right in the convenience of your home. Chances are, you will later want to increase this time all by yourself, because you will find that exercise can actually be fun. That *you* can actually enjoy it.
3) Difficulty: We may think exercise is difficult, because we think of doing too much or doing things that are currently too far beyond our ability. So we may start, strain for a short while and lose momentum or give up. Again, the good news is that you need not do anything that is very difficult. Start where you are, and grow in exercise. Just like anything we learn properly, we start where we are, and we increase our ability slowly over time. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.
Please get medical clearance from your doctor before beginning any exercise program, especially if you have not been exercising for a while and/or you are over 30 years of age.
If you are not getting regular exercise, then you need to start now. One problem with delay is, the longer you stay without exercising and while not taking care of your nutrition, the bigger the problem gets. It will take more effort or time to undo the effects of such a lifestyle, than if you start making changes sooner. So the sooner you start, the better.
What are some exercises you can do? There are all sorts of exercise out there. Pick one that you will enjoy. A simple Internet search will give you more than you need, and several videos exist showing how to do the exercises properly. Examples are walking, jogging, skipping, stair running, star-jumps (also known as jumping jacks), press-ups, squats, and so on. All these require little or no equipment. Many of them can be done in or around your home. I emphasize, pick one that you will enjoy.
So how do we start?
Set a written, easy, specific, measurable goal and write or find a plan to achieve it. Remember to start slowly.
For example, you could set a goal that a month from now, you will be walking a total of 1 hour a week. (Remember we are starting with something easy).
You could then break down that goal to walking 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week.
You could then start with 5 minutes a day for the first week, then 10 minutes a day, the next week, then 15 minutes a day, then finally 20 minutes a day.
Just like that, you will have a goal and a plan to reach it.
A written plan simplifies your work. You simply need to read what to do each day and do it.
A written plan helps you monitor and see the progress you are making.
A written plan motivates you to exercise, even if just so that you can mark off one day as done.
Start with something that you can actually do and enjoy. For example, if you want to take up running and you have not been running at all, you can start with a walk/run plan, where you walk a number of minutes, then jog for a short time, then walk some more. Don’t plan to start jogging 30 minutes straight when your body and mind are simply not prepared for it. You will get to your 30 minute goal if you work towards it properly. It also needs to be something that you enjoy otherwise you may son stop exercising. The plan that I followed when I started running was this one from About.com.
The plan should be specific. e.g. walk for 5 minutes, then jog for one minute. Or skip 200 times. Or walk up 3 floors and back to ground floor, 2 times.
Similarly, it should be measurable. You should be able to know whether you did as planned or not. Did you skip 200 times or 180? Did you jog 1 minute or 45 seconds?
The plan should also include rest days, to allow you to, well, rest, so that your body has time to recover. Rest is important and should not be neglected. Rest days also cater for times when realities of life prevent you from exercising.
Record progress. This can be done by simply ticking against your written programme above or writing the date, the activity, and the number of repetitions done, such as “Skipped 500 times.” Seeing your progress will help motivate you to keep going.
You may want to share your plan with others who can keep you accountable and encourage you to maintain the habit. Better still, if you can find someone to join you in the exercising, that would help. A partner can help you stick to your exercise appointments.
The most important step is to actually start doing it. Go to Day 1 of your plan and do what it says. The best plan in the world and the best sports gear will not help you if you do not actually get moving. So get up and do it. And enjoy yourself while at it.
All the best in your fitness journey. Remember, if you have not yet started, then start today.