How much exercise do I need?
First, it is great news that you are looking to get more active! It is no secret that exercise offers benefits for the mind and body, but it can be a challenge to get started.
Clearly, you have a desire to get moving more regularly, and it’s useful to reflect on why you feel this way. If you have an understanding about why you want to get more active, it will be easier to choose meaningful short and long-term goals that can pave the way for your success.
Once you have identified why you would like to start getting more active, you can determine how much exercise you need.
The current Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines suggest achieving 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week in bouts of 10 minutes or more. For added benefit, it is also recommended to add two days of strength training on top of this. However, it is important to recognize that these are just guidelines. There is no ‘one size fits all’ here. People will need different amounts of exercise at varying intensities based on where they're at and what their goals are. In any case, 150 minutes per week is a great target, and is certainly achievable with a bit of planning.
How to get started
Remember that exercise is dose-dependent, meaning some is always better than none and the more you do the more benefit.
Start by setting a few simple short term goals and write them down. Here are some examples of fitness goals to get the wheels turning: “I will walk three times per week for 20 minutes, rain or shine” or “I will start gardening daily for 10 minutes” or “I will do one yoga class and one spin class for the next 4 weeks.” All of these goals should be realistic, time-contingent, and specific. The more specific your goal, the easier it becomes to schedule it into the week, and the more likely you will reach it.
Set a reward for achieving your goal! A reward may come in the form of buying a new set of running shoes, a new workout shirt, or going out for dinner. We are all extrinsically motivated at times which can help keep us on track to reach our targets.
Other things to consider to stay on track
Build slow and sensibly; if you build too quickly it could lead to injury. Think about adding 5 to 10% extra physical activity per week.
When things are fun, things get done. Try to find a few activities that you enjoy doing, not the things you think you ‘should’ do.
The more the merrier! Get friends or family involved, or join a workout group. Not only is it great to be active and social, having others to exercise with will likely drive motivation, keep it fun, and hold you accountable.
If you ‘fall off the wagon,’ not to worry, just pick yourself back up. It’s normal for us to be consistent for a period of time only to then fall out of our rhythm. Don’t sweat it!
By Ali Alexander, Physiotherapist