If you’re about to start a new exercise regimen, it’s important to set things at your own pace. The hardest part really is in getting started, and a positive approach to exercise can work wonders for motivation and in building new, positive habits.
In fact, a new study by the American Journal of Health Behaviour has found that the loud, aggressive approach favoured by trainers on such popular weight loss programs as The Biggest Loser can in fact be doing more harm than good. The study found that this type of training could set up expectations of exercise being a negative experience, and decrease motivation and participation in general. So what are the best ways to ease into exercise?
Whether you’re starting regular exercise for the first time or trying to get back into shape, it’s important not to overdo it from the outset. Start small and gradually build up your endurance. Remember that every minute you spend moving will make exercise more of a habit than a novelty. A good workout can be achieved in just thirty minutes, but don’t jump straight into an intensive routine, especially if you haven’t worked out in a while. Something as simple as parking further away from the supermarket can add up invaluably in the long term. Although it can be tempting, you also don’t need to spend lots of money on expensive equipment or gym memberships either.
A good way to start is with fifteen minutes of walking, three times per week. Each week thereafter you can add five minutes, until you’re walking for thirty minutes. By then, exercising will likely feel like much more of a habit than a chore. This type of gradual progression both allows your body to adapt and keeps challenging it as you improve your fitness. Don’t feel obliged to exercise every day when you’re first starting out – your body needs time to rest and recover, especially if you’re new to exercise.
Keep it interesting
You’re not very likely to skip something you actually enjoy, and therein lies the key to long-term exercise habits. Try to reframe your thinking to see exercise as time for yourself, rather than a chore that has to be completed. If you find yourself getting bored, start exercising with friends, or even a change in location can work wonders. Also, involving your friends or family makes it that much harder to skip an exercise session.
Celebrate Your Successes
No matter how small, an achievement is an achievement. Try not to compare yourself to others, and instead focus on your own fitness and improvements. Remember not to beat yourself up if you miss a day of exercise. It’s easy to turn the guilt of one missed session into a self-defeating cycle. You can’t do anything to change to past, but you can be proactive about tomorrow and the days following.