We all know that exercise is good for us. It does wonderful things for our bodies and reduces the risk of numerous different health complications. To achieve this, the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines suggest participating in more than 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity.1

Here are six steps to help you start an exercise program and stick with it.

  1. Start Small – Try to integrate physical activity as a regular part of your day and your body will be far more tolerant to new movement. Warning! If you haven’t exercised in a while — months or even years — jumping into a boot-camp class to do an excessive amount of squats within a short time frame has an extremely high potential for injury and thus drop out. Instead, consider starting with a few 30- to 45-minute walks a week.
  2. Find Something Fun – Most gyms, training groups, yoga studios, running/walking groups and sports leagues have a discounted rate for the first few sessions. Start with one and try several activities that you think you might like. Once you’ve found a few that you enjoy, alternate them throughout the week to keep yourself motivated. Cross training — when you combine a variety of different workouts into your weekly routine — will not only will keep you from getting bored but is also good to prevent too much strain on specific muscles, ligaments and tendons.2,3 You’re more likely to achieve the recommended amount of activity if you enjoy what you’re doing. If you hate running, don’t aim for a half marathon.
  3. Find a Source of Motivation – For the techies out there, there are countless activity tracking apps or fitness tracker watches that can help you plan your workouts and keep you focused on your goals. Or, if you like to kick it old school, grab yourself a pedometer to help you log those daily recommended 10,000 steps.4 If you need someone to give you the evil-eye to ensure you show up, find yourself a workout buddy or join in a group session or sports team. The buddy system is a great motivator and can also make being active more fun.5 Ensure you find yourself a pal with similar goals. Or, if you need extra social pressure, the November Project is a free fitness group that will keep you accountable via their “We Missed You” blog or by inquiring about your lack of attendance on various social media platforms.6 If you require more guidance, hiring a personal trainer will not only make sure you attend your sessions but has the added benefit of leading you through an exercise program. Do your research and make sure that your personal trainer has formal training and isn’t just someone with a large social media following who likes fitness coaching.
  4. Just Keep Moving – There will be days when you don’t want to exercise. Often, missing one workout will then lead to missing consecutive workouts until you’ve fallen off track. Obesity Panacea, a team of exercise physiologists, coined the term “Good Enough Workout” where they recommend just doing anything on such days instead of your full program.7 Whether you end up doing half of your original plan or going for an easy walk, you maintain the momentum. Keeping a consistent routine is most beneficial to the musculoskeletal system. Interrupting your training schedule for more than two weeks can lead to an increased risk of lower limb tendon injuries, calf/hamstring strains, rotator cuff injuries and low back and neck pain.2, 3
  5. Be Prepared For a Bit of Soreness – If you’re starting a new training program, or even a new sport, you will likely be a bit sore afterwards. You’ll be okay. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a good type of soreness that peaks 24-72 hours after the activity and can last up to seven days. It’s the result of mechanical and/or metabolic stress to the muscles and occurs when your body undergoes more stress than normal.2 As you become accustomed to a new exercise or sport, your body will adapt and your DOMS will diminish.
  6. If Pain Persists, Seek Help – If your pain lasts longer than a week, or if you experience something worrisome during your exercise routine, it’s important to follow up with a professional to investigate further. There is nothing worse than getting going with exercise only to have it curtailed by injury. A qualified physiotherapist or chiropractor will not only help with you manage your injury but will also try to keep you participating in some form of exercise to help ease you back towards your goals.8,9 You should be an active participant in your rehabilitation, working through a series of exercises to get you back to your pre-injury self.

Physical activity should be a fun part of your week, not just a chore. Enjoy taking some time for yourself while simultaneously benefiting your health.

References

1. Tremblay MS, Warburton DER, Janssen I, Paterson DH, Latimer AE, Rhodes RE, et al. New Canadian physical activity guidelines. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 2011;36(1):36-46.
2. Brukner P. Brukner & Khan’s clinical sports medicine: McGraw-Hill North Ryde; 2012.
3. Cook JL, Purdam CR. Is tendon pathology a continuum? A pathology model to explain the clinical presentation of load-induced tendinopathy. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2009;43(6):409-16.
4. Tudor-Locke C, Bassett Jr DR. How many steps/day are enough? Sports medicine. 2004;34(1):1-8.
5. Pan SY, Cameron C, DesMeules M, Morrison H, Craig CL, Jiang X. Individual, social, environmental, and physical environmental correlates with physical activity among Canadians: a cross-sectional study. BMC public health. 2009;9(1):1.
6. Project N. November Project Boston, USA2017 [Available from: http://november-project.com/.
7. Janiszewski P. Obesity Panacea [Internet]: PLOS Blogs. 2015. [cited 2017]. Available from: http://blogs.plos.org/obesitypanacea/2015/04/28/the-good-enough-workout/.
8. Association CC. www.chiropractic.ca 2017 [Available from: https://www.chiropractic.ca/about-chiropractic/find-a-chiro/.
9. Association CP. Find a Physio 2017 [Available from: www.physiocanhelp.ca.