Small Steps to Starting Exercise
Those of you who know me will recognize the term “small steps.” It’s what I tell people to focus on when starting a diet and fitness regimen. If you start small – especially if you are new to exercise, you conquer achievable steps and can feel great about it. Soon, you start building up bigger challenges and will end up with new, healthy habits you can maintain.
When thinking about starting exercise, the first thing to do is talk to your health care professional. They can provide any special instructions to keep in mind. They may even have a form of exercise they think would work best for you.
If you are not ready to jump in and join a class or hit the gym, that’s ok – remember, “small steps!!!” You will get there, but you have to start somewhere. Here are a few simple movements that get the blood flowing and your muscles stretching:
Getting Out of Bed in the Morning:
- The Sun Salutation: When you wake up, stand up straight with your eyes fixed on the wall. Raise your arms from your sides with your palms facing inwards until they come together over your head. Reach as far overhead as your muscles will let you; breathe deeply for a few breaths. This stretch gets your blood flowing and in time you can stretch further!
- The Roll Down: Stand with your spine and feet planted firmly against a wall. Start by bending your head and looking at your toes. Keep your “core” muscles tight – like you are doing up a tight pair of jeans – start rolling down, peeling your vertebrae away from the wall one at a time. Keep your stomach muscles engaged and roll down only as far as you can. Take a breath and while keeping the stomach muscles tight pull yourself back up placing your vertebrae against the wall one at a time. Center your head last. This stretch helps develop your core stomach muscles and helps open up the spine.
At the Office:
- The Long Walk: Every day activities DO count! Enhance them and you are on your way. Park your car away from the office and walk an extra distance to get a little extra cardio. If you are at home during the day, this works when you are out doing errands!
- The Fidget – Studies have shown those who fidget at their desks actually burn a small amount of calories. While the amount of calorie burn caused by squirming in your seat may be small, we love the message to keep moving. Small movements like tapping or lifting your feet keeps your blood flowing and lessens the risk of blood clots caused due to lack of circulation. Remember your arms too! Spread them wide and bring them together in front of you several times for a release of tight muscles in your upper body!
- The Walking Meeting: Ask your colleagues to take a walk around your building or office complex while discussing a work matter. Getting out and moving is not only good for your body, but a change of scenery might just help with a fresh approach to your work! Even a walking to a colleague’s office instead of calling, or taking the stairs adds to your exercise each day.
- The Stress Relief: We all need this during the day, no matter what we do. Take a few moments each day to roll your neck around in a circle – first clockwise for a few rounds, then counter-clockwise. Remember to keep breathing. Next tilt your head to the left; then slowly to the right. Repeat a few times and breathe! Then rotate your shoulders in one direction for a few repetitions; then switch directions. These exercises and breathing help you release that stress that you carry in your neck and shoulders.
A Little Homework at Night:
- The Squat: Don’t’ be scared. It sounds worse than it is. Take a chair and stand as though you will be sitting down. Engage those core muscles – the feeling is like doing up those tight jeans – then bend at the knee and squat like you will be sitting down. Just lightly touch the chair with your bottom and you’ve done a squat! Repeat until you feel your thighs and glute muscles start to burn. It’s as simple as sitting and standing, and holding your core tight!
- The Toe Taps: Try to get outside – perhaps while walking the dog or just to the mailbox. Stand in front of your curb – or perhaps your front step. Raise one foot and touch the step; place it back on the ground. Repeat with your next leg. Remember to keep your core tight and engaged, and to breathe! Don’t worry about speed at first – just make sure you are tapping your toes and your muscles are engaged. Speed, if you choose to add in that cardio element can come in down the road.
- The Tip Toes: While you are standing at the counter cooking dinner, doing the dishes or opening the mail, slowly raise yourself up on your tip-toes, then lower yourself down. Again, think of engaging your core muscles and breathing. Repeat until you feel a burn in your calves. This easy exercise will help your lower leg muscles – and you might feel like you are in the ballet!
These simple, small movements are free, easy, and will get you started. When you have a rhythm under your belt and feel your muscles starting to engage throughout your body you can start moving your way up to a more challenging exercise routine.
Remember, the goal is to just start moving those muscles and getting to know your limits and start to push yourself. Not all of us can start out running or hiking!
Tell us, how did you start your exercise plan?