As I sat down to compose my first blog post, a myriad of important and compelling fitness topics came to mind. As with any new endeavor, it’s difficult to know where to begin. I’m here to tell you I know how you feel. Maybe you’re realizing swimsuit season is just a few months away (again already?!). Or you promised yourself on January 1st, “This year I’m going to lose weight!” Or maybe you’ve been to your doctor and she gently, or maybe not so gently, chided you because the blood pressure reading wasn’t so good. Perhaps it dawned on you that this is your reunion year. Or have you been noticing lately that you’re just tired, exhausted really, from nothing in particular? You know it’s time to lose weight, exercise more and get your energy back. But where in the world do you begin?
Making it more difficult is the constant bombardment of news, advertisements and government edicts telling us we eat too much, sit too much and sleep too little. Then they give us contradictory information on what we should eat, how we should exercise and how long we need to sleep. Then there’s the American culture – we work and play hard. For most, work is done seated and play usually involves one or more of the following: sitting, eating and drinking. We are impatient – we want things and we want them now. This is a very bad combination and the statistics bear it out. We are a nation that is overweight and sedentary with growing rates of obesity, diabetes and hypertension – even among the youngest of us. And every company, health official and gym tells you they have the magic formula. But with most people quitting diets before reaching their goals or two-thirds of dieters who reach their weight-loss goals unable to keep the weight off long-term, the formulae aren’t so magic after all. Gym membership statistics are just as bleak. In January and February gyms are teeming with New Years Resolution Members. By April, the people there are mostly the same people who were there last December.
Now, before I have you asking yourself, “Why bother?” let me tell you that the problem here lies in the question itself. Most people fail at this exercise-diet thing because they ask “Where, what and how do I begin?” before they ask the question, “Why do I begin?” One doesn’t answer this question with her head. Because, “I hate the way I look, I need to wear this size pair of jeans or that size wedding dress, the doctor told me to, or I know should,” are the things that motivate you to buy the latest info-mercial exercise gadget, join a health club or begin the latest deprivation diet. But they won’t get you truly invested. They will only motivate for a few days or, if you’re lucky, a few weeks or months. If you want this to work you need to do some soul searching.
Those who are successful adopt a healthy lifestyle for a lifetime. They see the big picture and the long view, not the dress size. They will make a series of small changes over a long period of time, not huge changes quickly. If the only goal is the “what” – losing x amount of pounds in y amount of time – what will you do when you reach that goal? Will you slowly creep back into what you were, or weren’t, doing before you lost the weight? If you have a slip up along the way, how will you be motivated despite knowing you have already failed on the time constraint of the goal? But, if your overarching goal is the “why” – I want to play outside with my kids, I have a responsibility to be fit for my kids and teach them to be healthy, I need to have the energy to do the things I enjoy, I want to travel after I retire, I want to have confidence and feel good about myself – that is a much more powerful motivator. The bonus is you will lose the weight along the way. Except, this time, you’ll be able to keep it off because being fit will be who you are. What is your why?
Now, here is where to begin, with one small step to incorporate this month: movement substitutions. At every chance you get throughout each day you will chose standing over sitting, walking over standing, and walking further distances or faster paces. Examples: stand while on the phone, take the stairs, grab the parking space that’s furthest from the door. Can you incorporate walking or bike riding in your commute or errand running? Use half your lunch hour to take a walk. Always use the restroom on a different floor or furthest from you. Before you know it, these choices to move more will be incorporated into your life without you ever thinking about it.
Incorporate these substitutions even if you already exercise. The latest research is showing that even those who exercise regularly are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease if they are sedentary for long periods during most days.
If you’re a competitive person or like playing games, get an inexpensive pedometer (ie Omron Pocket Pedometer, $25) that you can wear discretely all day. Aim to top your total amount of steps each day. Some pedometers (ie Striiv Smart Pedometer, $100) come with access to apps for your mobile phone so you can compete against frenemies or win prizes.
So, this is where we both begin. You will incorporate this first small step toward a fitter lifestyle and I embark on my blog to help you along the way. Future posts will include monthly diet and exercise small steps to adopt into your everyday life as well as fitness tips and advice, the latest research on fitness, busting the myths of exercise and diet, and so much more. Welcome to your quest to be fit and happier!