Tips for the reluctant athlete
Dr Duncan Jefferson dispels the excuses many use for not exercising
Spring is here! It may not be September 1 yet, but according to the aphids on my budding roses and the weeds shooting out of the ground, nature is stirring which means we should be stirring our limbs too!
I know that for many of you, keeping fit is a way of life that you’ve kept up all through the winter months and the only difference that spring makes is that you’ve got to remember to put the sunblock on and to be more aware of your hydration in the warmer weather. But for a great many people exercise does not come naturally and the list of reasons why it’s “too hard” is a fairly long list, so let’s just look at some of those reasons and see how to overcome them, because there is no doubt that, if you’re fitter, your life will be healthier and more enjoyable.
“I’m not the athletic type.”
Take the “competitive athlete” image out of your mind and keep the whole thing simple. Just get up out of your chair and go for a 10 minute walk on a regular basis – it’s that easy. After keeping up this routine for a few weeks you might increase the time to 15 minutes or try walking faster. After about a month you will have developed a “physical activity routine” which you will actually ENJOY! Get some friends involved too and then you can not only have some support, but have some fun too.
“I don’t have enough time.”
Your ability to be physically active is only limited by your imagination! If you work long days then get up 15 minutes earlier and go for that walk - I promise you that you’ll feel the benefits of it, both at home and at work. Or use the stairs at work instead of the elevator - if you’re on the 35th floor then get off 3 floors below and walk the rest. Park your car at the far end of the car park and walk further. If you’re keen then think of cycling to work a couple of times a week: or walk to the train and save on petrol too.
“I’m really embarrassed about how I look when exercising.”
Despite all those adverts of glowing, smiling, perfect athletes that you see with perfect bodies, most of us wobble and sag in areas that we shouldn’t wobble and sag, and no one looks good bathed in sweat with a purple face - but it feels great afterwards! If you do feel too self conscious then keep covered up and just walk. Look for a group of people similar to you and find an activity that suits you all - most health clubs offer a variety of classes.
Just dare to try it.
“I tried exercise once and I ached all over.”
Be realistic: if you haven’t exercised before, your muscles are going to be surprised to say the least! “Start low and go slow” is the moral for the first time exerciser. Set some realistic goals and keep the time short - even if you feel you could do more, it’s far better to come home thinking you could have done more than arriving home and having hated what you did. With time, slowly increase the amount of work you do and always remember why you are doing this - it’s for you, for your health and so that you can get more out of life.
“I’m afraid I might hurt myself.”
This is a real concern for many people, especially older folk who may have medical conditions that affect balance, vision or personal safety. For these people, the paradox is that being physically active will definitely do more good than harm BUT you must get expert advice first.
So start with your doctor or specialist who should be able to direct you to an appropriate activity group that will be safe for you. For those who are just worried about the potential for harm, then see an accredited personal trainer who will be able to tailor a physical activity program just for you and once you have gained confidence and knowledge then this will have a huge positive effect on all areas of your life.
“My family and friends will give me a hard time.”
Peer pressure can be both good and bad. The decision you have to make is whether YOU want to live a healthier, happier life. If you do, then keep it simple: join a local walking group - good peer pressure - talk to your family about why you want to be more active and involve them if you can. When you go to the shopping centre, instead of having a coffee and muffin, walk up and down the mall a couple of times, try a low cal drink (water’s the best) and share the muffin instead of eating it all yourself. And talk to others who have become more active and get their support.
These are just a few of the thoughts that go through the minds of those who are wavering about getting “physical”. What they need is not only good ideas but our support too. We can all make a difference by setting a good example: and we should reach out to those who haven’t been “bitten” yet and give them positive encouragement. So bring on the Spring and let the sap start to rise!
Article written by Dr. Duncan Jefferson. For more articles by Dr. Duncan, click here. For more information on healthcare and private health cover, visit HBF Insurance at www.hbf.com.au.
The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.