If you’ve never been physically active, getting started can seem like a daunting task. There is an overwhelming amount of information available, but Sunnybrook Advanced Practice Physiotherapist Suzanne Denis says focusing on the basics is the key to fitness success.
Define your fitness goal
Before you get started, ask yourself, why you are doing this? Is your goal to become stronger, to lose weight, reduce your need for medication, or to just get healthier overall? Defining the purpose will provide positive motivation for the work you put in while keeping you on track.
Love it and list it
You will have far more success in the long-term by engaging in activities you really enjoy. For extra motivation, sign on to a class or group session of a certain activity, keep a daily journal or use a fitness tracker to mark your progress.
Get the green light
Although most people living with a chronic disease or health issue can greatly benefit from activity and exercise, it’s a good idea to meet with your doctor before starting to ensure they are safe and right for you.
Ready to go? Start slow
A mistake that many people make is starting their new regimes too enthusiastically. Too much too soon can lead to pain and risk of injury, and a higher probability people will quit within the first two weeks of a new program. Your body will take some time to adjust to new movements and levels of activity, so humble beginnings are key.
Once you have had success during the first week, keep building on that (no more than a 10 per cent increase per week) and incorporate a bit more time/weight/distance onto what you did the day before. Varying the types of activities you are doing will give certain muscle groups a chance to recover. If the activity you are doing requires equipment, make sure you are using it properly to avoid injury.
Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable
It’s normal to feel muscle groups you haven’t before after starting a new type of activity. That means you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, helping build new muscle groups and overall strength. But if your pain is persistent and debilitating, make sure you seek medical assistance.
The big picture
There is an expression that you can’t outrun your fork, and it’s true! Any successful fitness regime is built on the foundation of a healthy lifestyle, which includes a balanced diet. Adequate sleep, not smoking and limiting alcohol intake will all help you achieve faster positive results with your new physically active lifestyle.