One of my best friends asked me once, “What is the minimum amount of exercise I should do?” Fortunately I had a pretty active lifestyle as a kid, spending most of my childhood outdoors. I’ve always enjoyed moving my body and have felt comfortable in my skin most of my life. However, I have often asked myself that same question. I have had months at a time of not exercising. I’ve always found that I became quite comfortable not moving my body. After the first couple of weeks I was able to accept and even enjoy the lack of exercise. If you choose to go this route I must point out that in order to not gain too much fat, which is proven to be bad for your health, you have to eat very little when you live a sedentary lifestyle. Which is a big reason why I don’t feel good being sedentary for very long. I love to eat!
Read my article, “Why I Choose To Live an Active Lifestyle”, to find out more reasons why I have chosen not to be sedentary in my life.
There may be a minimum of activity you need per day or per week to stay healthy and to be able to live your life joyfully. However, this amount is unique to each individual, depending on your genetic makeup, your current fat percentage, the amount that you eat, your physical aches, and pains, and your daily physical demands, such as holding children, lifting equipment, standing in a kitchen, cleaning your house, gardening, etc. There is no magic formula to the minimum amount of exercise you can get away with. What you really want to ask yourself is, “What do I want out of my physical life? How do I want to feel in my body? What do I want to be able to do with my body?”
How to start getting into shape if you’ve never exercised before or if it’s been a while:
a. Envision what you want, align with your desires, imagine and feel as if it is already here, and trust in the process that is to follow.
b. Put your goals and inspirations in writing. This is very important, because you may feel inspired one day, but a week or a month later you may forget how you felt back then. It is so incredibly easy to fall back into old patterns. The hard work is to create new. If you have something written to refer to it will really help during more challenging times when your visions are not as clear as before.
c. Ask yourself these questions:
i. How do you want to feel?
ii. How do you want to look?
iii. How do you want to get there?
d. Write down precise ways in which you will measure progress and success. This is important to keeping you motivated. Choose small baby steps and incremental measurements. This does not have to be, "loose 5 lbs." It can also be, "wake up with energy", "have better digestion", "feel less bloated", "have an easier time going up the stairs", etc. Choose goals that you feel able to attain and inspired to reach!
2. Start slow
a. You want to get your body adjusted to exercising. There will be many new sensations for your body to process. You want to keep yourself wanting more. Therefore you do not want to over-do it. When you are just starting out, too little is better than too much.
3. Make a time commitment
a. If you have set times and dateswhen you commit to exercising each week, this will keep you accountable. There are no excuses, such as being too tired. Unless you’re really sick, pretend that you have an appointment scheduled each time/date you have committed to. Write it into your schedule and show up no matter what. Even if you’re late it’s better than not showing up at all. This is one reason it may be a good idea to schedule a few personal fitness sessions with an instructor, because then you’ll show up. However, sooner or later you will have to be accountable to yourself.
4. Begin with 10 minutes, 3 x’s/week
a. This is a manageable amount. So even if you were up all night with your baby, you can still show up and move your body for just 10 minutes. This is what helped me after my third child was born. I hadn’t exercised most of my pregnancy due to various physical discomforts, and then I was too tired for the first few months postpartum. So, when I finally committed to going back to the gym three days a week, knowing that it was only 10 minutes was a huge help. Many days I dragged myself out of the house, but knowing that I only had to do it for 10 minutes I didn’t mind so much. This got my body and mind into a routine and a rhythm of exercising.
5. Getting into a rhythm and routine is the best first step
a. Over time your body will get adjusted to the routine, so sticking to it will help you feel more at ease with the exercise.
6. Do something you enjoy (read during the elliptical/bike machine, walk around a park, bike around town, listen to an mp3 while you exercise)
a. This is another thing that will keep you coming back. Over the years I have changed my exercises regularly. I have gone through many phases of yoga, Nia, aerobics, jogging, weight lifting, etc. For me exercising and being active is a lifelong commitment so I have to change things up to keep life interesting.
b. I highly recommend that you keep asking yourself this question over time. What can I do to enjoy my exercising? Are there other ways I can be moving my body to keep me motivated? Are there classes I want to join, or a personal fitness instructor I am interested in? Is there music, or are there mp3 classes I would enjoy listening to? Are there new books about exercising techniques or just to pass the time while I’m on the treadmill?
7. Be gentle with yourself
a. There will be ups and downs and stumbling blocks.
b. Accept your “falls” and accept yourself during the difficult times.
c. Love yourself first and foremost, and your body will follow.
d. Get back up when you’re ready and return to your goal/vision/intent.
8. Keep track of your progress
a. In your first step of setting a goal you should define what progress will look like to you, whether it’s getting up the stairs without feeling out of breath, or waking up in the morning with energy, or losing a certain amount of weight, or gaining a certain amount of muscle. How will you measure it?
b. Keep an exercise or a fitness journal. In it write your feelings, hopes, and achievements.
c. Choose certain landmarks to celebrate. This will help you realize that you are moving forward.
d. Eventually you will set new goals and celebrate new achievements!
e. If you keep things up, moving your body, once an endless struggle and concern will become a natural part of your life.
I truly bless you, from the bottom of my heart, to find unconditional love for your whole self. I bless you to find the healthiest path for your body! Much love, Rachel Sacks.