Are you overwhelmed by the thought of starting an exercise program? Not sure where to begin? From the wellness perspective, the entire point of exercising is to meet your body's innate genetic requirements for movement. We were born to move! Motion is life. This does not necessarily mean that we were born to lift weights or run marathons or do wind sprints or do yoga or Pilates! Movement does not need to be labeled … it just needs to be done.
Your exercise and movement is unique to you. Yes, leading researchers and scientists can demonstrate that certain types of exercise help us meet our goals of ideal body weight and composition, strength, power, agility, endurance, heart health and building sleek, lean muscle mass more effectively. But that still does not mean that your exercise needs to look exactly like mine, or anyone else's in order for it to be effective. You just need to begin. Then keep going. Make it part of who you are. You are a mover for life because you are healthy. The key elements to effective exercise are intensity and variety. When you think of intensity, think of exercising with focus and power. Challenge yourself. This could mean adding some running to your walk, or holding your yoga pose a little longer or with more power, or lifting a heavier weight, or adding bursts of power to your exercise, or just not lolly-gagging during your exercise routine!
Variety in exercise is fairly self-explanatory. Mix it up. Your body will respond well to a combination of challenges, like doing some resistance training, and some short-distance high intensity cardio, and a little endurance-based cardio, some power and flexibility exercise like yoga, Pilates, stretching and so on. Variety also means mixing up each of these routines: for example, instead of going out for the same distance, same paced run each time, change your speed, your distance, even where you run. Change your resistance training by doing completely different exercises, using different weights, or different numbers of sets and repetitions, and so on.
Where would I recommend you begin? First, I recommend that you decide. Decide that you are a healthy person … and healthy people move regularly. It's part of the gig! You do not "have" to do this, you CHOOSE to do this because you choose to be healthy. Then, commit to shakin 'your groove thing on a daily basis! (Borrowed that from my 4 year old son!)
Three times each week, do resistance exercise. This is the type of exercise that, when performed with bursts of intensity and variety, will get you some pretty quick noticeable results. That's not necessarily the point, but it's great motivation to stick with this! I recommend you begin here. Three sessions per week is not carved in stone, by the way. Some weeks you might do two really intense work outs, while other weeks you might do four sessions. Three sessions is probably just about right for most of us.
Next, commit to 2-3 burst-like cardio activities. These are fairly short exercise routines that focus on high intensity bursts and high energy. Some examples are, 10 minutes of sprinting, or jump rope, or stair climbing. Or, if you can do a little longer, do something like a bike ride or run on a hilly terrain that naturally incorporates bursts of intensity. Or, you could play a sport you enjoy that naturally incorporates these bursts of power, like basketball, soccer, racquet sports, skiing, kick boxing and so on.
Then, add in a day or two each week when you do some of your longer cardio exercise if you choose. Science has shown us that endurance training is less effective than the "burst-like", higher intensity exercises in our efforts to achieve overall health and fitness, but if you enjoy it, go for it. There's something to be said for our mental and emotional health, too!
Most people have the greatest trepidation about starting resistance training. Start with simple steps. You do not even need to use any weight other than your own body weight at first. "Big", global movements, like squats and lunges for the lower body, and pushing, pulling and lifting for the upper body are enough to choreograph a great exercise routine – especially once you incorporate variations and modifications. These types of exercises use more muscle groups and therefore accomplish more work. This is a very good thing!
Full body work outs are superior to splitting up your work outs into different body parts on different days. Again, more work is accomplished overall. When you accomplish more work in a work out, the right way, you build lean muscle mass. This essentially becomes your fat burning furnace, raising your Resting Metabolic Rate and burning more fat and calories for you 24/7.
You could start with a simple routine like this:
– 1 minute of squats
– As many push-ups as you can
– 1 minute of alternating lunges
Keep cycling through this for 10 minutes, with very little rest in between each exercise. You can add in a couple minutes of abdominal exercises, too. Adding some weight for resistance, eventually, will give you even greater results. So will adding a few more exercises, like another lower body exercise and a big upper body movement like rowing or chin-ups / pull-downs. No need to add too many though – the most effective resistance exercise routines are usually 45 minutes or less. Less can definitely be more when it's done properly.
To add variety and modifications to any of your core moves, you can change your stance, your grip, the surface you're standing / sitting / lying / kneeling on, the amount of weight you're using, the type of weight you ' re using, the pace of your work out, the numbers of sets and repetitions, and so on.
I have what I like to call a "default exercise": one that you can do when you're not really sure exactly what to do, but you know you should move! It's the squat. At almost anytime and anyplace, you could crank out a few squats – during commercials, while folding laundry, cooking dinner. The squat is a nice, big exercise that involves all the muscles of your legs, glutes and your core. You get a lot of bang for your buck with an exercise like the squat! The same is true of lunges – big move, accomplishes a lot of work, and therefore gets your metabolism revved up to work for you.
I've worked with many beginning exercisers who initially felt they had little time to spare for exercise. To get started, I recommended these ladies fit in some squats and lunges to the activities they were already doing in any given day. In addition to exercising during commercials of favorite television shows and while talking on the phone, I've also heard of lunging and squatting one's way through vacuuming, dusting, doing the dishes and walking to and from the laundry room!
Get creative and keep it simple. The point is to move. Will 5 or 10 minutes of exercise accomplish all your health and fitness goals? It's not likely – our bodies require more than that in order to achieve optimal levels of health and function. But, is 5 or 10 minutes better than NO minutes? You bet your getting-firmer-buns it is! If you have the choice to only get a few minutes of exercise in your day, or no exercise … choose exercise! Every single minute will help.
There you go – those are your simple steps for getting started with exercise. There are plenty more tips where those came from! For now, just get movin '!