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How to Get Fit Even if You Haven’t Exercised in Years
Once upon a time, Americans didn’t need to think much about exercise; it was built into our daily lives. We walked almost everywhere, did most housework by hand, and had our own home gardens, large yards that we maintained by hand, many worked on farms or did manual types of labor. Leisure time was spent outdoors.
This, however, was before Americans spent 33 hours a week in front of a television or computer, and 40 plus hours per week sitting at their desk. This was before drive through food joints, dishwashers, riding lawn mowers, and coffee shops. We used to move much, much more, doing everyday things. Now, with health care costs going through the roof and the health issues that come from prolonged sitting, there has perhaps never been a better time to begin exercising than today. Yes, we said today. Because you know how this works. Tomorrow or Monday or after the holidays, never seems to come, does it? Start today!
Although for those of you who haven’t exercised very much, especially for those of you who haven’t exercised in years, this might seem like a daunting task, but it’s not as hard as you think. No one is demanding or expecting you to run a marathon this weekend. Follow these steps and get back to your best, most healthy self!
1. First, check in with your doctor
Especially if you haven’t exercised in a long while and especially if you are over 50. It’s vital that you check in with your doctor for a complete physical before you begin. Your doctor can run tests to be certain that a regular exercise program isn’t dangerous for you. Your doctor should give you direction and encouragement. Be sure to make a follow up appointment so both of you can really see the progress you are making the positive effects it is having on your body.
2. Focus on what you can do
If you haven’t exercised much (or at all) in your life, don’t sign up for that 10K next month. If you set goals that are unrealistic you will only put a damper on your motivation. Don’t whine about what you used to be able to do, or what you think you should be able to do and don’t compare yourself to anyone else. You will be happier if you simply focus on what you can do today. It’s OK if you can’t run a 10 minute mile. You will, in time. The important thing isn’t what you should be able to do, but the fact that you are doing something. Remember that old saying “No matter how slow you go you are still lapping everyone on the sofa.” Even if all you can manage is 10 minutes per day to start with, that’s good enough.
By the way, let’s take just a moment to talk to those of you who are really overweight and embarrassed to be seen. Are you thinking that people are staring at your and laughing behind your back? In almost all cases, this simply isn’t true. Think about it, when you see someone running by or even walking briskly, do you check their size or laugh about them? No, if you are like most people you are simply wishing you were doing something fun, too. If people stare it’s probably because they are jealous. Don’t let what others might be thinking stop you from being the best you that you can be.
3. Do a little strength training
If you plan on using a gym, get at least two days of strength training. No, you don’t have to lift weights like Arnold Schwarzenegger, just go through the weight machine circuit twice a week. If you plan on just working at home, you don’t have to buy expensive dumb bells. You can lift water bottles or just try doing some heavy yard work.
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4. Do some fun cardio
Some people prefer to exercise alone, others like to do it with a group. If you like to do the group thing, consider joining a gym with a wide variety of classes for all fitness levels. They are certain to have some type of class that you will find fun; Zumba, water aerobics, kickboxing, or yoga. If you are more of the introverted type, try taking brisk walks, especially if you can walk through a park or the woods or on the beach. If you like biking, almost all cities have bike trails. Whatever exercise you choose, make it something fun, so you will want to do it again and again.
5. Put more movement into your day
One of the best ways to get exercise is to do things the “old fashioned” way. Walk as much as possible. Park your car a block away from your office or the store and walk there. Turn off the TV and go outside to do some yard work, play with the dog or your kids, or play basketball in your driveway. Rake leaves by hand, use a manual lawn mower, hang laundry outside to dry, take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Anything you can do that requires you to move more is a good thing.
6. Don’t forget to rest
If you simply live for Orange is the New Black, you don’t have to miss out. As long as you are getting exercise during the week, you can feel good about sitting back and watching an episode without guilt. You deserved it! The body needs to rest as much as it needs exercise. As long as your program doesn’t interfere with your 8 hours of shut eye, feel free to enjoy that new episode of The Walking Dead. Find out mistakes people make when trying to be healthy.
Everyday research shows us more and more that making simple changes in our diet and exercise routines is the key to lifelong good health and happiness. Make it yours!