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We’ve heard it all before…we should exercise every day.  We’ve heard the studies that say regular exercise will reduce our risk for cancer, diabetes, obesity, depression, osteoporosis, etc.  No matter how much we want to exercise, we never follow through with the promises we make to ourselves to hit the gym or to make it to a yoga class.  Or maybe we do make it to a class or go for a jog but then we just can’t seem to stick with it – we can’t get into an exercise groove.  Our job, children, family and friends all need our attention, our money and/or our time.  We still think about exercise…mainly that we are not exercising…and this makes us feel guilty and stressed.  Our thoughts of all the exercise we should be doing, but aren’t, become overwhelming and we give up – sometimes before we start.  Is the thought of getting fit stressing you out and pushing you to inaction? 

But hold on a minute.  Rome, as they say, wasn’t built in a day.  And you don’t have to overwhelm yourself with all that you think you should be doing.  Instead, plan out what you can do in 15 minutes a day.  You can gain important health benefits in just 15 minutes of exercise each day.  Each time you complete a 15 minute session it will add up until you have hours of fitness under your belt.  Doing something is always better than doing nothing.  Your 15 minutes of something will add up to 1 hour and 45 minutes of fitness each week or 4.5 hours of fitness each month.  That’s pretty impressive if you are doing less than that now.

So what could you do during your 15 minutes of fitness?  Consider alternating each day between an aerobic session and a strength training session. 

Week 1 walk for 15 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.  

Week 2 complete a strength training session on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. 

Don’t think for a second that you need to have a gym membership or own an expensive piece of equipment for this 15 minute fitness program.  One of the best aerobic activities you can do for your self is to walk.  Walking 15 minutes 3-4 times each week will provide you with a number of health benefits.  Check out One Activity that Can Change Your Life for more information about the vast health benefits of walking. 

It is possible to create a strength training program at home with no equipment.  Using your own body weight as resistance you can do push-ups, sit-ups, squats, core exercises, dips, etc.  Use your 15 minutes of strength training to complete some light stretches, 10 push-ups, 25 sit-ups, 20 squats and 6 dips.  In one month, this will add up to 150 push-ups, 375 sit-ups, 300 squats and 90 dips each month.  See how these small incremental efforts add up to big time numbers?  Check out this previous post on weight training if you want to incorporate free-weights or you are looking for some other strength training exercises.

No matter what your situation, a fitness program is within your reach.  Don’t become paralyzed by unrealistic expectations.  Just commit to 15 minutes a day and alternate between an aerobic program and a strength training program to start your fitness program.  The most important thing you can do for your health today is to commit to a daily routine that you complete everyday no matter what.  A 15 minute commitment is do-able for everyone.  No excuses.  Make your 15 minute fitness program a habit and you will reap the health benefits guaranteed.

Do you ever become overwhelmed with your fitness goals?  Have you ever stopped exercising because you felt like what you were doing didn’t make a difference?  Let me know in the comments.  Thanks.

 Next Post:  Do You Have Lazy Habits?

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Back in February, we looked at whether a walking routine would meet the guidelines for moderate level intensity exercise set by the CDC’s 2008 Physical Guidelines for Americans.  The studies we looked at reported that walking is considered a moderate level intensity exercise but only if you walk as fast as a 15 minute mile.  Other studies suggest that walking is beneficial even if you walk slower but emphasized that as you walk faster there is a corresponding increase in the health benefits that you will receive.  

But this is only half of the story… 

In addition to recommending 2 hours and 30 minutes per week of a moderate intensity aerobic activity, like walking, the CDC also recommends that adults perform muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days per week.  While walking is great for your aerobic fitness, walking will not strengthen most of your major muscle groups. 

Do you have any idea what the word ‘sarcopenia’ means?  I didn’t either.  But, I learned that sarcopenia is a condition of age-related loss of muscle mass and strength.  We begin to lose muscle mass around age 40 and, if you don’t do anything to stop it, up to 33% of your muscle mass may be gone by age 80. 

Researchers are focusing on why we lose muscle mass as a part of aging and many think that it is related to a slow-down of blood flow to our muscles as we age which deprives our muscles of the nutrients and oxygen needed to rebuild and repair our muscles. 

Weight training is one way to stop the process of losing muscle mass and increasing the blood flow to your muscles.  (Prevention –Feb 2010, pg. 73) In as little 15-30 minutes each day, you can perform all the weight training exercises you need to realize improvement in your muscle mass – no matter what your age!  

Weight training will help you reverse the age-related loss of muscle mass and prevent an increase in body fat as you maintain or increase your muscle mass.  Exercise helps the muscle cells get bigger and it also makes your muscles stronger.  Weight training will reduce body fat, increase your bone density, increase lean muscle, and help you control your weight as your body burns calories more efficiently.  If you are suffering from arthritis, back pain, depression, diabetes, obesity or osteoporosis, weight training can help reduce the symptoms of these chronic conditions.

It is easy to start a weight training program right at home.  All you need are free weights which you can find at any Target, Wal-Mart or sports store. You can try the weights out at the store to see what you should start with.  I have 3 lb., 5 lb., and 8 lb. weights that I use for my workouts.  Believe it or not these free weights coupled with exercises that use your own body weight for resistance is all that you need to start a weight training program. 

The most recent information on weight training indicates that aiming for 8-12 repetitions of the heaviest weight that you can lift is the most efficient way to work your muscles.  For instance, if you are a beginner to a weight training program and you are working your biceps, see if you can lift 3lbs for 8 repetitions.  Was it easy or were you struggling to make it to 8 reps?  If you were struggling, then you are using the correct weight, for now.  If it was easy to reach 12 reps then move up to the 5lbs. and so one until you find a weight that is challenging for you.  When your current weight is no longer a challenge, move up to the next weight. 

Your weight training routine should target your main muscle groups including legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.  Right now I am following the Total Body Routine developed by Mark Fenton in his book The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss & Fitness.  For a comprehensive weight training routine, Fenton suggests building up to 2 sets of 12 reps for the following exercises:  push-ups, bent-over rows, lunge with bar or weights, full abdominal crunch, overhead press, pull-ups, squat with bar or weights, isometric side support, dips and biceps curl.  If your time for weight training is limited, he suggests completing exercises 1-6 from the list above on the 1st day and exercises 7-10 on the 2nd day.  You should alternate between the 1st workout and the 2nd workout 3 times per week allowing for 1 day of full rest.  Disclaimer:  I do not do pull-ups and I substitute ‘regular’ crunches in the sit-up position for the full abdominal crunch. 

If you are unfamiliar with any of the exercise above or you want to try different weight training routines, there are many resources that can help:

  • Check out Fenton’s book from your local library and learn about the Total Body Routine exercises and all of the other great walking information he discusses in his book
  • Go to the AARP website for video instruction on some of the exercises listed above
  • Go to the Prevention website for demonstrations of arm, back, butt, chest, and leg exercises
  • Check out weight training DVDs or books at the library
  • Hire a personal trainer for a session or two
  • Ask a friend who has experience weight lifting to give you some pointers
  • Download a weight lifting instructional application to your smart phone

Like all exercise programs, you should warm up your muscles before you jump into the main routine.  I do an ‘ultimate energy’ qigong stretching routine before I lift weights.  Check out this link if you want to learn more about qigong or you would like to see a step-by-step video presentation of this routine.  This routine gently stretches many of your main muscle groups and it is a good start to a weight lifting routine.  One more thing to remember is that you should never work the same muscles two days in a row – give those muscles a day off in between workouts.  

So keep walking everyday, but also think about starting a weight training program today to keep your muscles strong and healthy for a lifetime. 

Do you lift weights regularly?  Do you lift at home or at the gym?  Let me know with a comment.

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Routine – customary or regular course of procedure; habitual.

Routines give us predictability in our day, help us remember all of the things we need to accomplish and help us get things done more efficiently.  Take your morning routine for example.  As you start your work day you probably do the same things in the same way at about the same time every day.  This highly developed morning routine is necessary to get everyone out the door on time.  If you were forced to change up your routine every morning it would take a lot longer to get ready and you would probably forget something important like feeding the cat, giving your children their lunch money or letting the dog out.    

In much the same way that your morning tasks are easier under the framework of your morning routine, meeting your exercise goals is also easier if you assign a place for exercise in your daily routine.

Without a daily exercise routine:

  • You can forget to exercise
  • You exercise only for the time you have left rather than for the time you plan
  • You can lose sight of your fitness goals
  • It is easy to go down the slippery slope that starts with skipping a day ends with skipping every day. 

If you haven’t been successful keeping up with your exercise goals, could it be that you have not established exercise into your daily routine? 

Try giving exercise a priority status in your day like you (should) do for sleeping, eating, working, and spending time with your family.

Take it slow.  As you work to establish your new exercise routine it is more important that you exercise every day than it is for you to exercise a long time every day.  Commit to your exercise routine at the same time everyday for a minimum of 10 -15 minutes.  Nothing too strenuous.  Keep your new routine manageable as your body and your schedule adapt to the new routine.  You will have plenty of time to commit even more time and effort once your new routine is established.

I’ve been using this approach recently as I try to incorporate meditation into my daily routine.  Like most of you I need fewer things to do in the morning not more…. and that is why I rarely have time to meditate for more than 6 minutes each morning.  The important thing is that I have meditated every morning for the past two weeks.  I look forward to these precious minutes of quiet and solitude.  At some point in the future I may find a way to increase the time I meditate but I’m not worried about that now – the important thing is that I am giving meditation a place in my routine every morning.

It can also be helpful if you use a prompt in your day that will push you to exercise at that time.  I have 4 prompts in my work day that push me to walk:

  • After I park my car I walk 7 minutes to the office
  • At the start of my lunch break I walk for 20 minutes
  • At the end of my work day I walk another 7 minutes back to my car
  • When I get home from work my son and I walk my dog for 20 minutes 

Because my prompts for walking are so specific it is nearly impossible for me to forget to walk.  I have developed such strong habits for walking at these times that it is truly a part of my day as much as eating or sleeping.  As you work on developing your exercise routine try to work prompts into your day so that exercise will become an important part of your day.

Checklist for starting an exercise routine:

  • Give exercise priority status in your daily schedule
  • Find a way to exercise every day; use prompts in your day that will push you to exercise
  • Focus on the daily habit.  Don’t try to do too much too soon.
  • Keep at it even when you don’t want to – you will love yourself if you do
  • Try not to miss a day for at least the first 10 days
  • Do it for you.  Tell yourself frequently why you want to exercise every day
  • Make it real – tell your family and friends about your new exercise routine or write about it in your journal;
  • Find support in a friend, an exercise group or Walk Today

One last thought…If the thought of starting an exercise routine now, in the dead of winter, leaves you feeling blah don’t feel bad.  It can be very hard to motivate ourselves to start a fitness routine when it is cold and gray outside – maybe that is one reason our New Year’s fitness goals don’t always work out so well.  Spring will be here soon so now is the perfect time to start planning an exercise routine that you can start once the snow melts and the temperatures rise.  I hope these pictures will remind you of the warm days ahead and will inspire you to start planning a spring exercise routine today.

Chicago, IL

Henderson, KY

Gordonsville, TN

Fall Creek Falls State Park, TN

Tell me how you plan to start or change your exercise routine?  Will your routine change when Spring comes?  Does your routine change from workday to weekend?

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Do you get 30 minutes of exercise 5 times a week?  No.  Why not?  Study after study suggests that as little as 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week can give you a healthier, happier and longer life. 

If there is a little voice inside of you saying it’s time to be more active then try walking.  Walking is an activity that almost everyone can do any place or time.  If you choose to walk you’ll find that the excuses you’ve used in the past to avoid exercise won’t be a barrier anymore.  

You might identify with some of the most common reasons below that people say they don’t exercise.  Scroll down to find the most common reasons that you don’t exercise.  Then learn how walking will be the excuse buster allowing you to focus on accomplishing fitness goals instead of avoiding exercise.  

No Confidence

  • I don’t know what to do – I feel stupid;
  • I don’t think I can do it – I am afraid;
  • I’m embarrassed;
  • I’m too big.

You already know how to walk.  You’ve had a lot of practice walking and you are well trained for this fitness activity.  You don’t have to learn how to work tricky equipment or remember the steps to a fitness routine.  All you have to do is walk.

If you are uncomfortable walking in your neighborhood, find a local park for walking. You will blend in with all of the other walkers – young and old and of all sizes. 

No Time

  • Exercise takes too long;
  • It gets in the way of other obligations;
  • It’s inconvenient;
  • I have to care for my children and/or other family members.

Walking is always available if you have appropriate shoes.  You can fit 10 minutes of walking into your day pretty effortlessly.  Be creative.  Walk around the block or parking lot before and after work, walk for the first 15 minutes of your lunch break, walk while your child is at baseball practice or dance class. 

Keep a comfy pair of shoes in the car or at work so you will always be prepared to squeeze in 10 minutes of walking.  To start, set a goal to walk at least 10 minutes every day.

Remember that your children will get older and your family obligations will change.  By developing a walking habit now you will have more energy today for your many obligations.  Take care of yourself now so that you can take care of others in your life. 

Health Concerns

  • I’m out of shape;
  • I’m too old to exercise;
  • I don’t want to get injured.

Almost everyone who doesn’t have a chronic or limiting health condition can walk safely at any age.  Start off slow aiming for a 5 to 10 minute walk each day and gradually build up to 30 minutes. 

No Motivation

  • Exercise is boring – no fun;
  • I can’t commit – I keep quitting;
  • I keep procrastinating.

What do you like to do?  Do you like talking with a friend, listening to music, feeling the sun on your face, having more ‘me time,’ spending more time with your family or spending time in natural settings?  You can do all of these things and more while walking.  Call a friend to walk or recruit some friends for a walking group, enjoy nature while walking at the park or greenway, get more ‘me time’ by walking solo or have more family time by planning family walks.  When you choose to walk, it is easy to include some of your favorite people, places and things with walking to keep it fun and to keep you motivated.  

No Results

  • Exercise isn’t changing my body;
  • Why should I bother to exercise;
  • Exercise is all for nothing.

A proud sense of accomplishment is one of the first results you will notice after walking.  You will start to feel stress melt away within minutes after you start walking.  You will notice increased energy and alertness.  You will almost always feel better after walking than you did before you walked.

No Money

  • I can’t afford a gym membership or exercise classes;
  • I don’t have the right exercise equipment;
  • I don’t have proper exercise apparel.

Walking is basically FREE.  All  you need are shoes.

If you walk, you don’t have to join a gym, pay for classes or buy special equipment. 

Look around and you will see that most walkers wear whatever is comfortable and weather appropriate…we walkers aren’t into flashy and we seldom worry about what to wear when we walk. 

No Effort

  • Exercise zaps my energy;
  • Exercise is too hard;
  • Exercise hurts;
  • I’m too tired to exercise.

Walking is one of the easiest fitness activities you can do.  Your body is made specifically to walk.  Your body should not hurt during or after walking if you start off slow and gradually increase your time and intensity.

If you feel tired, take a walk.  You will feel alert and energized after walking. 

External

  • It’s too nice to be inside exercising.
  • It’s too hot, cold, rainy or snowy to exercise outside.

When the weather is bad you can walk inside at the mall, community center, or indoor track.  If the weather is nice then take advantage of a beautiful day by walking outside at the park, in your neighborhood, on the greenway, or investigating your own town on foot.  No matter what the weather is outside, walking can work for you.

Have You Walked Today?

Have you ever let any of these excuses stop you from being more active despite your best intentions?  Are you convinced yet that walking can be your excuse buster and let you achieve your fitness goals instead of avoiding exercise? 

Don’t let one more day pass without walking.  Start today, no excuses.

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7 Day Challenge

Have you made a choice to walk today?  “Of course,” you say, “I walk everyday to move around.”

At Walk Today “walking” means choosing to walk when you don’t have to…like when you walk from the parking lot to your office instead of taking the shuttle or walking during your lunch break to get some fresh air or walking around the neighborhood for fitness.

You can choose to walk right now*.  Go ahead….right now!

If you’re reading this at work

Can you take a few minutes to walk around the block, walk around the parking lot, walk up a couple of flights of stairs or walk to the other side of the building?

If you’re reading this at home

Can you walk down the street, walk around your yard, walk up and down your stairs a few times, walk around your house…you get the picture.

How was it?  Was the fresh air energizing?  Did stepping away from your desk give you a mental break?  Was it challenging to walk up the stairs?  Did you feel more alert?

You can experience these benefits and more if you choose to walk every day.  Every day? Sure, walking every day will maximize the benefits to your body and mind and before long you won’t want to miss a day.

Take the 7 Day Challenge*

Sometimes the most challenging part of starting a new activity is actually getting started.  The 7 Day Challenge is a manageable way to start a daily walking routine by committing to walking 10 minutes everyday for the next 7 days.  If you are already walking every day, you can add 10 minutes to your normal routine or walk faster.

To help you successfully complete the 7 Day Challenge, write down your answers to the following questions:

1.  What is the #1 reason I want to start walking every day?

2.  When and where can I schedule a 10 minute walk on each of the next 7 days?

3.  What is my back-up plan for walking if there is a schedule conflict or the weather prevents me from walking outside or getting to the walking track, etc.

Refer back to your answers if you are struggling for motivation or if it becomes difficult to find the time or a place to walk during the Challenge.

Feel the Experience

Each time you walk during the Challenge, try to fully experience your time walking and begin to discover what makes walking joyful for you.

Pay attention to your body. Stand up straight, move your arms while you walk, feel your hips stretch as you move your legs, reach your arms over your head and reach for the stars – feel the stretch in your spine.  Do you feel more agile?

Breathe, breathe deeper. Does the extra oxygen give you an energy boost?  Can you feel your heart beating stronger and your lungs working harder?

If you walk outside, pay attention to your surroundings and embrace nature.

  • Are you walking at the time of a beautiful sunrise or sunset?
  • Do you see birds or other animals?
  • Are the stars out-is the moon full or crescent?
  • How does the sun feel on your face?
  • Does the cold, snow or rain make you feel triumphant?

If you are walking alone try to clear your mind to give yourself a mental break.  Enjoy your ‘me’ time.

If you are walking with friends or family enjoy the time together free from distractions.

Reflect

After you walk each day for the next 7 days, reflect on your accomplishment.  Was it easy to get motivated to walk each day?  Why were some days easier than others?  Did you like walking alone or did you prefer to walk with others?  If you weren’t able to walk every day, what were the barriers that caused you to miss a day – can you think of a way to work around these barriers in the future?  Are you finding joy in walking?

Click ‘Leave a Comment’ at the bottom of this post to share your 7 Day Challenge experiences with others at Walk Today.

*The American Heart Association recommends that doctors “screen all patients with a history of cardiovascular disease or who are at high risk of a heart attack or stroke before they start a vigorous exercise program.  People who are obese, have diabetes or other serious medical problems, or who have been sedentary for a long time should talk to their doctor before starting any exercise program.”

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Can you figure out from the clues below the one activity that can change your life?

  1. All you need to start is a pair of athletic shoes.
  2. This activity will help you sleep better.
  3. You can choose to go solo, grab a partner or join a group while doing this activity.
  4. It requires no training or classes.
  5. It can lower your cholesterollower your blood pressure, lower/maintain your weight, and lower your risk for cancers.
  6. This activity can bring you closer to nature.
  7. This activity will improve your emotional well-being.
  8. You can include your family, your friends and/or your dog during this activity.
  9. It can improve the health of your heart.
  10. It can be done almost anywhere and at any time of day.
  11. It can help prevent the onset of osteoporosis and Type 2 diabetes.
  12. It can improve your flexibility and balance.
  13. It should be done in at least 10 minute increments – 30 minutes/day.
  14. This activity can be done for a lifetime.

Did you guess walking?

It’s hard to believe that something we’ve all been doing since about the age of 2 can be the solution to many of the physical and mental health risks that we often face in a modern society.

Our bodies are built to walk and by simply increasing the amount of time that you walk each day, you can change your life by improving your physical and mental health.

Is Walking Right for Me?

Maybe it has been a while since you’ve been active or maybe you are thinking of joining a health club.  You may be wondering if you have the time to walk or if walking will really help you reach your goals.  You might be questioning if walking is really the right fitness routine for you?   If so, scroll down to answer the following questions.

  • Do I want a fitness routine that can be started for the cost of a pair of shoes?
  • Can I commit to a physical activity, do it in at least 10 minute increments and work towards 30 minutes a day?
  • Do I want to exercise with my family, my friends or my dog?
  • Do I want an exercise routine that can bring me closer to nature?
  • Do I want an exercise routine that lets me choose to go solo, grab a partner or exercise in a group?
  • Do I want a fitness activity that requires no training or classes and that can be done almost anywhere and at any time of day?
  • Do I want to improve my flexibility and balance?
  • Do I want a fitness routine that can lower my cholesterol, lower my blood pressure, lower my risk for cancers and lower or maintain my weight?
  • Do I want a fitness routine that can improve the health of my heart, prevent osteoporosis, and prevent Type 2 diabetes?
  • Do I want an exercise program that will help my emotional well-being, help me problem-solve and help me manage life’s daily stresses?
  • Do I want to start a daily fitness activity that I can do for a lifetime?
  • Do I want to sleep better?

Did you answer ‘yes’ to any of the questions above?  If so, I encourage you to locate your sneakers and some weather appropriate clothing and take a walk today!  If you’re a new walker, take a 10 minute walk at a pace that’s a little faster than normal*.  If you are already walking regularly, add 10 minutes to your normal walk time or try to walk faster during some or most of your walk.  When you’re done, give yourself a big pat on the back – you are changing your life for the better by walking.

*The American Heart Association recommends that doctors “screen all patients with a history  of cardiovascular disease or who are at high risk of a heart attack or stroke before they start a vigorous exercise program.  People who are obese, have diabetes or other serious medical problems, or who have been sedentary for a long time should talk to their doctor before starting any exercise program.”

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