For the beginning exerciser, learning how to fit physical activity into our already busy lives can feel overwhelming. As fitness professionals, we need to be creative in helping our clients overcome this barrier and achieve a healthy lifestyle. Very few people wake up one morning and successfully transition from a couch potato to an athlete in a single day.
To successfully help someone achieve a healthy and active lifestyle, small changes can create a huge payoff. Fitness professionals must promote exercise as a habit, not a chore. Small changes allow beginners to see the immediate benefits of an active lifestyle, and be more willing to devote regular time to their fitness goals. Starting slowly instills exercise as a habit, making it feel less like an inconvenience. Here are some small changes that help ease beginners off the couch and into healthier lifestyle practices:
1. Plan a 10 minute walk after meals.
To a busy person, 30 minutes of exercise daily can feel like an eternity. Where can I find 30 more minutes in my day? But, an extra 10 minutes can feel much more manageable. A sneaky way of getting someone to do 30 minutes of walking per day is to ask clients to take a 10 minute walk after each meal. They feel better, tend to eat less, and are meeting the minimum requirements for exercise and health!
2. Be an early riser.
I like to encourage beginners to set their alarm 30 minutes earlier than they usually get up. They can take that time to go for a short walk or jog, do some yoga, or even complete a quick exercise DVD routine. Most people find that they don't miss that extra half-hour of sleep, and reap major rewards for starting the day off active!
3. Choose to be active.
Take the stairs. Park further away. Take the dog for a walk. Walk over and talk to that coworker instead of sending an email. These choices do add up, and can help ease people into a more active lifestyle.
4. Make exercise a priority.
If we wait until we have time to exercise, we will never exercise. Successful exercisers make exercise a priority. Look at the calendar for the week, and schedule the time that you are going to spend on yourself each day. If you make an appointment with yourself, you are more likely to keep that appointment.
5. No one is perfect.
Read that again: no one is perfect. Everyone is allowed to have one bad day, just make sure that one bad day doesn't turn into a bad month, followed by a bad year. Most people think that if they have a bad day or week, that they have failed and often stop their exercise habit. If beginners fall off the wagon, encourage them to just jump back on. Consistency is key! Something is always better than nothing!
As fitness professionals, it is important to get our beginners moving. Once they start reaping the benefits of increased physical activity, it is much easier to get them involved in a more structured program. Remember that lifestyle change is a process, not a destination!
Kelly Drew, M.S., is an ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist with Community Bariatric Surgeons at Community Health Network in Indianapolis, IN. Kelly currently serves on the RCEP Practice Committee for ACSM's Committee on Certification and Registry Boards (CCRB). Kelly is passionate about helping people achieve their health and fitness goals through lifestyle change and exercise intervention.
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