Think back on the New Years’ resolutions you’ve set for yourself. How many have you been able to keep?
When it comes to resolutions, most of us tend to have the mindset of a Texan: Go big or go home.
We reach for the stars and set goals like running the Boston Marathon or looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger when our sneakers haven’t seen the light of day since Thanksgiving.
We all want to be a better “me” in this New Year, but if we set the bar too high are we bound to fail?
And if we fail will we resort back to our old ways and habits without giving it a second try?
As a physiotherapist I commonly hear about people wanting to increase their physical activity, lose weight and build muscle mass. Unfortunately the extreme resolutions are more likely to be abandoned and result in physical injury.
Don’t get me wrong, they are important goals and may be achievable if given enough time. However, making smaller, intermediate resolutions may be a better way to get you where you want to go.
Whether you’ve already registered for a race or just want to get your heart pumping, starting at the beginning is always a good idea.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ASCM) exercise and physical activity can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer (Garber et al. 2011). It can also lower your blood pressure, help with weight management, prevent and improve mild to moderate depressive disorders and anxiety and improve your overall quality of life.
With this many benefits, how could you not want to add exercise to your daily life in 2013?
The ASCM recommends that healthy adults should exercise at a moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes per week (Garber et al. 2011). This works out to be 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.
And, as long as each exercise interval is at least 10 minutes in length, you can combine intervals to reach the full 30 minutes. It may not be the 26 miles of a marathon but it will start to train your muscles, heart and lungs to handle the new demand.
Over time your body will adapt to these changes and you will be able to walk or run faster and further than you could before.
Once you’ve reached this intermediate resolution, you may start training for those longer runs with more intense training schedules. There are many training plans out there for you to follow, just remember to set small goals and give yourself time in order to build the endurance you will need for race day.
If you were previously inactive and 150 minutes of exercise is your end goal, start small. Less than 20 minutes of exercise per day can still provide you with many health benefits (Garber et al. 2011).
Try taking a 10 minute walk on your lunch break, park at the far end of the parking lot or climb those stairs to your office instead of taking the elevator. Any amount of physical activity is beneficial, but like vacation time, more is better (Garber et al. 2011).
Challenge yourself each week by increasing the briskness, duration and/or frequency of your exercise and you’ll be on a healthy path to reaching your New Year’s resolution and those 150 minutes.
If you have a known heart disease or chronic condition consult with your physician before beginning an exercise program.
For a little extra motivation check out Dr. Mike Evan’s video called 23 1/2 hours available at, http://www.myfavouritemedicine.com/23-and-a-half-hours/ and start small to go big.