Making a start
May is National Walking Month, so this strikes us as a good opportunity to talk about getting started on exercise. We’ve spoken on this blog before about fitting exercise into your busy life, and keeping motivation up by setting goals. But what about those of us who are really at square one? If you have barely exercised at all recently, for reasons of busyness, injury or simply procrastination, how can you get started?
It is always difficult trying to break a habit, particularly if that habit includes things that are comforting or enjoyable to you – like laying on the sofa after a long day at work! But as regular followers of the Blue Ribbon Foundation will know, exercise is not just something you ‘should’ do; it really is a great way to get healthier. That in turn increases your chances of leading to a longer life, more likely to be free of long-term health problems or disability.
So here are some top tips to get you up and out!
Set yourself small targets to start with, and celebrate achieving them. For example, if you are starting from nothing, why not try walking for 20 minutes longer each day than you do normally? You could take a detour on your way to or from work, or take a stroll in a nearby park. Why not walk to the shop rather than driving or taking the bus? Or even walk to the nicer shop a bit further down the road? Walking 20 minutes a day is the premise of the charity Living Streets’ #try20 campaign, so you could look at their campaign site for inspiration and information.
Make the goals a bit more challenging. Once you’ve got into a rhythm of doing regular exercise, why not push it a little bit further? Yes, if you’ve been walking 20 minutes a day, you could extend that to 30 minutes, or start jogging some of that time. You could also start setting a distance target. For example, the NHS Choices ‘Couch to 5k‘ programme offers a running plan for beginners. If you search your mobile phone’s app store, you’ll also come across a range of other free and paid tools and apps that can help for lots of activity types.
Add variety. Making things more challenging doesn’t mean you have to keep on with the same activity. In fact, you risk getting bored and losing interest if you are doing exactly the same thing each day, like walking the same route. So it’s best to mix things up. For example, you could:
- change your route
- head to the gym for 30 minute workout every other day
- substitute two of your 20 minute walks for a 20 minute cycle or swim
- play some sport with friends or members of a local club – football, tennis, squash, golf, basketball – the list is endless!
Make this personal to you. Most importantly, make sure that whatever exercise you chose is something that interests you, or at least, you could get interested in! It’s much easier to start some exercise and keep engaged in it over the weeks to come if this is something you enjoy. There are exercise and sport websites, apps and clubs galore across the UK – you can find details of what is in your local area at Change4Life.
Make it a team effort. Finally, it’s so much easier to keep focused on staying healthy when people around you are doing that too. Why not join a running or cycling club, or a sports team? How about speaking to your friends and loved ones about getting fit together, and picking a regular activity you can all enjoy?
Remember, the hard part is starting – once you’re over that hurdle, it will be easier to keep at it! And your body will thank you for it!