Exercise – Getting Started

So, how much is enough?

Many people believe that only vigorous exercise or playing sport counts as physical activity. However, you can get considerable health benefits from regular activity without needing special equipment or sporting ability – you don’t even have to get very hot and sweaty.

The recommended healthy level of physical activity is at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity throughout the week. Doing more than this can give extra health benefits. Moderate means your breathing is faster, your heart rate is increased and you feel warmer. At this level of activity, your heart and lungs are being stimulated and this goes towards making you fitter.

You can achieve your exercise target through short bouts of 10 minutes or more during the week. You can also do a combination of moderate and vigorous intensity activity.

You should also include two weekly activities to strengthen your muscles, such as resistance exercise.

Where do I start?

Getting active is easier than you may think. You can include everyday activities or structured exercise or sport, or a combination of these. Adapt your weekly routine to fit in with your own personal circumstances – some ways of doing this are described below.

  • Walk or cycle to work.
  • Take all small opportunities to be active – use the stairs, do manual tasks.
  • Play a sport, go to the gym or go swimming two to three times a week.
  • At work, walk over to speak to colleagues instead of sending an email or phoning.
  • Walk instead of drive for short journeys or getting off the bus one or two stops earlier than usual
  • Organise a lunchtime exercise or walking group.
  • At the weekend take longer walks, go for a bike ride or do some DIY or gardening.
  • Park at the furthest end of the car park.
  • Play with your children in the garden.
  • Take a walk in the park.
  • Join an organised bike ride or run.

If you’re not used to doing exercise, you can start by exercising for a short period of time and gradually increase this by five minutes until you achieve your target. Don’t try to do too much too quickly because you may lose motivation and stop.

What’s stopping you?

If something is preventing you from becoming active, think about what you can do to resolve the issue. It’s important that you choose an activity that you enjoy. If it’s your children keeping you busy, why not exercise with them, such as going on a family bike ride. Below are some ideas that can make starting to get active easier.

  • Set a date to start and stick to it.
  • Talk to your friends about starting and see if they are interested in joining you – it’s always easier to have someone else to do activity with.
  • Find out what facilities are available in your area. You may want to join an exercise class, go swimming or visit the gym.
  • Set goals.

Once you have started exercising, you will need to slowly increase the amount and intensity of activity that you do. This will help to increase your fitness levels.

Goal setting

Setting goals is important. Short-term goals will help to keep you motivated when the going gets tough and give you something to work towards. Create realistic goals that help to improve your fitness levels – try using the SMART process to do this.

  • Specific – say exactly what you will do.
  • Measurable – if you can’t measure your goal, you won’t know if you have achieved it.
  • Attainable – your goal should be something you can and are willing to do.
  • Realistic – something you can do with the resources you have.
  • Time-based – give yourself a time frame in which to meet your goal.

Once you have set your goals, it’s important to stay focused. This will help you make lasting changes to your exercise routine and it will become part of your lifestyle. You may find some days are more difficult than others but try to stay motivated.

Sticking with it

You can make it easier to stay motivated in several ways. Choose an exercise you enjoy, and that is convenient, affordable and fits into your lifestyle. This will help you stick to your goals. If you don’t know what activity you enjoy, try a few until you find one or two that are suitable. Make sure that you put time aside in your week for exercise.

Writing a diary of your exercise routine can be helpful and improve your motivation. You can note the duration, type and difficulty level of the activity and how you felt doing it and afterwards. This will give you an idea of when you can increase your activity levels so you see your improvements.

Some tips for staying motivated are:

  • listening to music
  • exercising with your friends
  • varying your exercise – for example, try taking different routes when you do walking or running
  • setting goals and rewarding yourself with something you enjoy when you achieve them

Action points

  • Do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity throughout the week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity.
  • Include exercise into your daily routine, such as household chores, walking up moving escalators and walking up stairs instead of getting the lift.
  • Create goals that will help to improve your fitness levels and keep you motivated.
  • Choose an activity that is fun and enjoyable and you will stick to.
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