When's the best time to start an exercise plan? If you look down at the ground and can’t see your feet? If you find yourself struggling on family walks or bike rides with friends? If the last time you exercised, Jane Fonda was wearing leg warmers and a head band? If any of those examples resonate with you, it’s time!
Invest in You
Investing in your health involves more than buying a fancy pair of running shoes or a fitness club membership. It’s about taking the time to set goals, to create strategies to help you replace unhealthy habits with healthy ones and to establish what type of exerciser you are. To accomplish this, answer the following questions:
Why do I want to exercise? Your reasons can be as simple and varied as keeping up with your grandchildren or walking up the Great Wall of China. Whatever the answer, you have just found your purpose. People with purpose have changed the world — and so they can certainly change themselves.
What habits do I need to replace? Replace junk food with more fruits and vegetables. Spend less time in your favorite TV chair, and more time being active. Eliminate excuses, like “I can’t exercise because my dog is too tired.”
What barriers prevent me from exercising? Make a list of the things that prevent you from exercising, then set out to eliminate or reduce them. One of the most common is lack of energy. How do you eliminate this barrier? First, realize you are in a “ what came first — the chicken or the egg” scenario. Your lack of energy will remain until you gain more energy. But to gain more energy, you need the energy to exercise. Solution: Start moving, even a little bit.
What is your exercise style? Do you prefer to exercise indoors or outdoors? Do you like working out with a friend, in a group, or on your own? Do you like competition? Once you’ve settled on your exercise style, it’s time to create an action plan.
I have a friend who helped her significant other start exercising by locking him out of the house. Once outside he had two choices; sit and pout or get moving. Whether that meant walking to a neighbor’s house, corner store or to the back of the house to crawl through the basement window, the message was clear: It’s time to get out of the house and move.
OK, OK, maybe the above strategy is a little excessive, and, if repeated on a regular basis is possibly grounds for divorce. Instead, consider getting professional help, as it’s helpful to have a certified fitness trainer create your initial plan, when possible. Treat this one-on-one opportunity as a confessional: Talk about your lifestyle, what you eat and where, how you sleep, how much activity you currently get, whether you have any aches and pains, and so forth. This information will enable the trainer to design an exercise plan that will likely work best for you. Once you’ve reviewed the plan, it’s time to get started. Don’t wait a few days, as days become weeks, and weeks become never.
If you choose not to hire a fitness professional, I recommend the National Institute on Aging’s Physical Activity and Exercise Guide. This free publication offers practical recommendations for all the components of an exercise plan: strength, cardio, balance and flexibility. It also provides motivational tips, and an exercise log for tracking your results.
Now you have what you need to get going. Since you aren’t invincible, remember to start slowly, pace yourself, and, most important, enjoy the ride.
Note: If you have any major health issues check with your doctor before starting any type of exercise regimen.
By Colin Milner
Colin Milner is founder and chief executive officer of the International Council on Active Aging® (ICAA), a member of the World Economic Forum’s Network of Global Agenda Councils, and an adviser to, among others, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Administratiion on Aging and the U.S. National Institute on Aging. Milner has been involved in the health and fitness industry since 1982. Prior to establishing ICAA in 2001, he was president of IDEA Health and Fitness Association. Milner’s efforts were recognized by the Canadian Fitness Professional Association in 2010 with the Can-Fit-Pro Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the Canadian fitness industry.
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