In my last column, I reviewed the basic guidelines for physical activity for adults. You may recall that the recommended minimum weekly volume of exercise for most adults is 2.5 hours (150 minutes) of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity, two sessions of muscle strengthening and to consider integrating balance/stability work. I also reviewed some of the reasons why exercise is a powerful “medicine” that most of us should be taking.
Why, then, do so many of us struggle to maintain an active lifestyle and meet these benchmarks? Often it’s not for lack of knowledge or intention but rather an apparent inability to make it happen. For the remainder of this column, I want to suggest some common sense solutions for a few of the hurdles that may be preventing you from getting your weekly “dose” of exercise.
“I’m worried I’ll hurt myself”
- Talk to your doctor to ensure you have no activity restrictions based on your medical history, or if there are restrictions, understand what you can and cannot do safely.
- Meet with a physiotherapist for an assessment of your physical abilities to determine appropriate activities and exercises for your body as well as identify any specific safety considerations.
- Consider doing supervised exercise with a physiotherapist or certified trainer until you feel confident enough to do it independently.
“I don’t feel like it”
- Consider inviting a friend or family member to do it with you or join an exercise group or class, sometimes making it more social will help it be more enjoyable and help you commit to it.
- Try a new activity to keep it interesting.
- Understand that regular exercise will actually increase your energy level.
- Make a plan and commit to sticking to it. Consider setting up some rewards for yourself if you stick to the plan.
“I’m too busy”
- Try exercising first thing in the morning. There are fewer scheduling conflicts in the morning (except the snooze alarm!)
- Find short periods to “squeeze it in.” Aerobic exercise (such as walking) can be of benefit even if it is broken down into sessions as short as 10 minutes. Some ways to do this include parking further from the door, doing an extra lap inside the mall, taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Consider doing some strengthening or balance exercises while watching TV, even if only during the commercial breaks.
“I can’t afford an expensive gym membership or class”
- Consider walking regularly. The only cost is a good pair of shoes.
- Make weights out of small household items (soup cans or water bottles).
- Investigate the free community health programs that are offered in your area.
Through all phases of life we face hurdles that challenge our ability to maintain an active lifestyle. However, if given the chance, that active lifestyle is one of the most powerful tools that we each have to maximize our independence, health and happiness.