Perhaps you gave up on a sport in the last few years because your life has become too hectic or you are simply disinterested? Yet the virtues of physical exercise have never been more praised! You are thinking about getting back in shape, but how? Getting back in good physical shape is simpler than you think. Take it one step at a time, do not get discouraged and always remember: every effort counts!
Am I in shape?
Being in shape cannot be measured with a blood test. Every person has his or her own definition of what it means to be “in shape”. Although marathon runners are in fantastic shape, they are far from being the only ones that are. Being in shape means you feel good in your body and are able to perform your daily activities at the pace you choose. Being active will help you stay nimble and mobile for a long time.
Too old to get in shape?
You are never too young or too old to start moving! Physical activity is important in maintaining good health in general, but even more so for seniors. People suffering from chronic diseases or those with physical disabilities can also benefit from physical exercise, because it helps counter some of the incapacitating effects of many diseases.
Of course, activities should be chosen according to physical capacity. For example, the suggestion for an ageing woman may be to walk more every day, join an aquaform class, do stretching exercises, or participate in dance night!
How much exercise do I need?
It is recommended we do 60 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days to stay healthy. Sounds like a lot? Not at all! You should know that this includes regular activities like walking, gardening, house work and cutting the grass.
You can choose to divide your daily physical exercise in a few sessions. For example, do your activities in ten-minute increments spread out over an entire day. You can take the stairs instead of the elevator, park further away from the door at your grocery store or get fresh air during your coffee break or lunch hour. All these activities contribute to your daily exercise requirements. You can also run your errands on foot or on your bicycle, play outside with the kids or get off the bus a few stops before yours and walk the rest of the way.
Should I talk to my physician?
Although physical activity is perfectly safe for most people, others should speak with their physician before starting an exercise regimen. Most notably those who: - Are aged 40 and over for men, and 50 and over for women; - Have had a heart attack; - Have a family member who suffered from a cardiovascular disease before the age of 55; - Suffer from diabetes, asthma or cardiovascular disease, including hypertension and hypercholesterolemia, or hepatic and renal disease; - Are obese; - Are pregnant; - Have chest, joint or muscle pain while being physically active.
So where do I start?
That is it, you made up your mind and now you are ready to get back in shape. Bravo, you have taken the first step! But be careful not to start like a maniac! You should start slowly so your body can get used to being active again, and progressively change your lifestyle habits. Not only will this decrease your chances of giving up, it will allow you to make a permanent change by integrating physical exercise in your daily routine gradually rather than abruptly.
What should my goal be?
You were a tennis champion in your youth but your racquets were banished to the closet 20 years ago? Go ahead and dust them off, but don’t be too hard on yourself. It will take you a little time to get your stamina and quick reflexes back before you can wow them on the tennis court again, but do not give up! A little perseverance goes a long way!
Not only will establishing realistic and measurable goals help you stay motivated, it will allow to evaluate the fruit of your labours. For example, your first goal might be to walk for five minutes once or twice a day and your second goal could be to walk 20 minutes four times per week, so on and so forth. As you gradually increase your stamina and strength, your ultimate goal could be participating in a ten kilometre walk. If you keep at it, you will achieve it!
Climbing the hill by your house without having to take a break, participating in a bicycle tour or going on a kayaking trip with your friends are all feasible goals. You can add a challenge like making a bet with two other people or a group of friends. Who in your group will be the most diligent and stick to the training sessions? It is sure to keep you motivated!
Is the intensity of my effort adequate?
The intensity at which your chosen physical activity should be performed will reflect the amount of energy you spend. For activities like walking, swimming or biking, the greater the intensity, the more difficult the activity becomes.
As a general rule, it is preferable to exercise at moderate intensity. You are giving a really good effort if you: are breathing faster; are perspiring a little; and can feel your muscles working. If you are able to speak in short sentences but are unable to sing, you are probably working at moderate intensity.
Choosing your activities
You will eventually be able to identify your favourite activities. Choose according to your interests, the availability in your area, your actual physical condition and finances. If you want to get back in shape permanently, opt for simplicity. For example, it is better to start speed walking rather than jump into a sport like windsurfing. Of course windsurfing is a lot of fun but it also expensive and unless you live on a beach, it is difficult to do on a daily basis.
Anticipating and overcoming obstacles
We come up with tons of arguments to justify our little moments of laziness. But if you want to succeed in getting back in shape, you must identify what weakens your motivation. Of course we often blame it on the weather – it’s raining, it’s too hot, too cold, too dry, etc. But we live in Canada and if you keep waiting for perfect weather to go out there and exercise, you will not move very often! Yet if we dress properly, we can enjoy outdoor activities in pretty much any weather. On the other hand, you can also be active in the comfort of your own home. You have to admit, it does not often rain in your living room!
Granted it is not easy to squeeze exercise in an already very busy schedule, but it is feasible! Start by entering your training sessions in your agenda and treat them as you would any important meeting. It is a very important meeting indeed because you are doing this to improve your health! Perhaps you can try getting up a little earlier a few mornings a week to take advantage of the peace and quiet and get yourself energized for the rest of the day. It is also an excellent way to make sure nothing comes up to prevent you from exercising.
Television takes up a lot of time in the lives of Canadians. Would it not be possible to replace a few hours of TV per week by an outdoor activity? You can also do your strength training exercises or go on a stationary bike ride while watching your favourite shows. You see, there is always a solution to staying active!
For gamers who are addicted to video games, why not opt for one of the new game consoles that require players to move to control the game instead of the old ones that only require thumb movement? It could be a fun way to help increase your energy expenditure while doing something you love!
For a lasting change, do it for fun!
We know that people who work out regularly simply do it because they like it and they like how it makes them feel. After your workout, why not take a little time to sit and enjoy the feeling of well being and relaxation you get from exercising?
Workout buddies, friends, family members, neighbours and coworkers are all great sources of motivation, so why not make exercising both practical and fun? Not only will you motivate each other, you will also see each other more often if you work out together.
Diversify your workouts! The more diverse your activities, the less chances you have of getting bored and quitting. Perhaps you can sign up for different classes or join a local sports league. Who knows, you may rediscover an old passion or find a new one!
Get the help you need
Most people appreciate the help of a professional to progress in their undertaking. Therefore, to improve your performance or learn a new sport of activity, why not sign up for a class or join a club? Most community centres offer affordable classes where you can rent the equipment while you decide if you truly like the sport. This way, you will not have to spend the extra money to purchase equipment for a sport you are not even sure you will like. But do not worry, there are myriad activities and sports to suit all tastes and all age groups! You just need to figure out the ones that are right for you.
If you suffer from a particular medical condition or have been inactive for a long time, the support of a health professional like as a kinesiotherapist can help you. On the other hand, if you have been injured, a physiotherapist can help you recover faster so you can get back to an active life.
Good shoes and appropriate clothing are essential if you want to fully appreciate the sport you have chosen in any weather. Do some tests, visit specialty stores or speak with enthusiasts to choose the appropriate clothing and equipment. But remember, you do not need the most sophisticated or the most expensive equipment to be comfortable and perform well.
The hardest thing is to start moving. But you can do it!
Although integrating physical exercise in your lifestyle requires a genuine effort on your part, it will quickly pay off. There is no unique solution to get back in shape and we all have our own ideas and preferences. But always remember that every move counts!
Perhaps you have been depriving yourself from the benefits of physical activity for a long time, but who knows, you may surprise yourself by the end of the summer! You could find yourself impatiently awaiting your evening stroll!