It is a beautiful morning here in the Mountain West. It is the kind of morning that begs a person to get out and enjoy nature, to be active and breathe deeply. So I am inspired to write about exercise this morning.
One of the most important aspects of making exercise work for you is consistency. It is important to start at a level that you will be able to maintain and to build upon. It is human nature to decide to change and go for your goals in a very enthusiastic (should I say overly-enthusiastic) manner. Over doing it usually results in an exercise program that is too vigorous to maintain. When you start out with a too rigorous exercise program, the best your can hope for is being sore; more serious consequences could include shin splits or some other injury that will cause you to delay your exercise program; or worst case scenario you could trigger an acute cardiac event. The data from the study linking cardiac events and physical activity found a high risk for infrequent exercise and noted the risk decreased with regular physical activity. So don’t over do it.
The Medline Plus site (A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine /National Institutes of Health) is an excellent free resource for starting an exercise program as well as increasing the duration or intensity of an existing exercise program. The information you can find on the website is:
• Be Active Your Way: A Guide for Adults
• Physical Activity for Everyone
• Tips to Help You Get Active
The first sentence on the Medline Plus website is very clever, “There are 1,440 minutes in every day. Schedule 30 of them for physical activity!” The website also notes that the 30 minutes of exercise can be broken in to ten-minutes intervals. For example, you exercise ten-minutes before work, ten-minutes during a lunch break and ten-minutes after work. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle now, you might want to start with one ten-minute session or four three-minute sessions scattered throughout the day.
Another tip for the currently sedentary is to try Tai Chi. A small study reported earlier this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that patients with heart failure who practiced Tai Chi experienced improvements in their quality of life – as measured on the Minnesota Living with Heart Failure Questionnaire. If you don’t have heart failure but are leading a sedentary lifestyle, Tai Chi is a great entry point to activity. You may experience the psychology benefits and be encouraged to spring board into more challenging physical activity. The meditative movements of Tai Chi can help calm and relax healthy, active people, so don’t pass it by just because you are already active.
Another entry point may be handgrip exercises for those with hypertension. According to a study conducted at Canada’s McMaster University, participants who performed 10 different handgrip exercises, three times week for eight weeks significantly lowered their systolic blood pressure. Walking is an exercise that can be performed at a pace comfortable for any fitness level that can help reduce your overall blood pressure level. You can incorporate the two by walking in between handgrip exercise sets.
Planning and forethought can be very beneficial when starting an exercise program. Similar to a journalist, take some time to look at the “who, what, where and when” aspects of exercise. Let’s start with the “what.” If you want to be consistent, it is important to choose something that you like to do. Let’s face it, even the most effective exercise in the world will not benefit you if you don’t do it. Don’t talk yourself into running if you hate it. In fact if you are just starting an exercise program, choose something that you absolutely love to do – it may not be high on maximum results, but if it will get you consistently exercising, choose it. At the end of your exercise session, take a moment to assess how you feel. Revel in any good feelings whether they are physical or mental (such as a sense of accomplishment). Do whatever you can to reinforce and focus on the good feelings.
If you are a morning person, the “when” is pretty simple. Exercising first thing in the morning reduces the chance of interruptions or other events taking priority over your exercise time. If you are definitely not a morning person, do not plan your exercise for the morning. This will only be setting yourself up for failure. You know yourself best; find a time that will work for you and commit to it.
The “who” and “where” can be linked together. According to Bert Carron, a Professor of Kinesiology focusing on sport psychology at the University of Western Ontario. "Exercising alone doesn't work for the majority of people." If you are in this majority, find an exercise partner in your neighborhood (or home) and/or find a recreation facility/gym/organization with people who motivate you to work out. Conversely, if you are don’t need a partner or other people to motivate you and don’t want to spend the time driving to a workout, plan your activities at home and alone.
The important thing is to incorporate physical activity into your life. Discover what inspires you. Tailor an exercise plan that motivates you to exercise on a regular basis and then start moving - consistently.
Spicy Wheat Berry Salad
2 cups cooked wheat berries
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can tomatoes with mild chilies, drained
1 small can sliced black olives, drained
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1/2 avocado, diced
Combine wheat berries, corn, olives, tomatoes and black beans in salad bowl. Note: in summer I use fresh tomatoes and fresh corn.
Add chopped pepper and avocado.
Mix together and serve.