Sam Baldwin, clinical exercise physiologist, Vanderbilt Rehabilitation Center at Newport Hospital
I’m sure, many of you reading this article have made a New Year’s resolution to start and maintain a regular fitness routine. Why? Maybe to improve your overall health, reach a weight loss goal, or improve your appearance at the beach. While these are good reasons, many of you will undoubtedly fail to keep your resolution. According to the annual Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index Poll, on average in the United States, less than 50 percent of Americans actually exercise 30 minutes three or more days per week. And every year there’s a temporary 5 percent increase in the number of Americans exercising after January 1, which lasts until about July, before declining to its usual level by December. 2013 was no different, except that we dipped even lower, to around 47 percent.
So, how do we get moving and stay moving? It starts with what I call the four Ws – why, what, when and where.
Why: This is what’s motivating you to start exercising in the first place. Are you doing it to lose weight, to look better, to train for a specific race or event, to manage a health condition like arthritis, or just for the general health benefits of it? All are great reasons and should provide the motivation to get you started.
What: What mode or modes of exercise are going to get you motivated to start exercising and keep you motivated enough to continue exercising. What equipment or clothing do I need to get started? Do you need to buy a treadmill or a bike? Can you just buy a good pair of sneakers to start a walking program? Walking is one of the best forms of exercise.The "what" also has to be an activity you know you’ll enjoy. You can’t go and sign up for a month’s worth of spin class because you heard it was a great calorie burn if you always disliked biking and find bike seats uncomfortable. Also, choosing a class or activity that is beyond your present fitness level will only result in extreme muscle soreness, over exertion and discouragement. Don’t set yourself up to fail based on a bad choice of activity. Remember - start with a general health physical exam with your primary care physician before starting any exercise regimen, especially if you’ve been sedentary for many years.
Where: This is extension of "what" because you have to decide whether you will join a class or local fitness club to accomplish your goals. This can be as simple as deciding to exercise outdoors by walking, jogging, biking, etc. But, we of course live in New England, where temperatures and weather conditions vary greatly based on the seasons. So again, don’t set yourself up to fall out of your routine because we have a week’s worth of bad weather, or simply because winter arrived.
When: This is the most critical factor for maintaining a fitness program. How often do people say, “I just don’t have the time to exercise?” More times than I can count. Making fitness a priority and starting an exercise program for the right reasons can make all the difference. Find a spot in your daily routine for it, whether it’s in the morning before the kids are up, on your way to work, or on your way home from work. Make it a daily routine, like, brushing your teeth, shaving, showering, walking the dog, etc. I know for myself, I have to do it immediately after work because if I go home first, I can come up with many things to do at home that will dissuade me from going back out that evening.
You’ll also need to exercise even when you think you’re too tired. Exercise at its core involves breathing deeply, providing better oxygenation to the brain and tissues of the body. In turn, this produces a feeling of euphoria during, and for some time after, the activity. The short of it is, you feel much better than you did before you exercised.
A possible fifth “w” could be “With Whom.” Establishing an exercise routine with a person who’s trying to get started like you are or with a person who’s already motivated and established in an exercise routine can be very supportive and helpful in terms of maintaining your exercise regimen. So, check with your friends and family to see what they’re doing for exercise.
So, write out your four or five “Ws” in the form of a plan and refer to it as needed to remind yourself of why you started exercising and why you should continue. And, track your progress – it will fuel your motivation.
in the Newport Daily News.
Vanderbilt Rehabilitation at Newport Hospital