Hate to Exercise? Try Being Active, Instead

When we lived in State College, PA, my husband and I were friends with a lovely couple we’ll call them Joe and Irene. We used to go walking with them in the hills of central PA. These walks could be quite strenuous, but always fun, and, good exercise.

Don’t even suggest to Joe and Irene they were going to be going on a difficult hike, though-they might bite your head off. They would tell you they absolutely hated hiking and refused to consider going on one. While they never used the work “hiking,” they would sometimes walk for an entire day.

Why is it that these particular words were so important to them? They felt that “hiking” implied fancy expensive waterproof mountain boots, hydration packs, trekking poles and freeze dried food. All they wanted to do was take some water and a few snack and be off for the day.

I always think of this couple when I talk to clients about exercise. For some reason, to many people the word “”exercise implies buying a membership to an expensive club, going to a fancy store and buying the athletic garb to wear on the machines. Don’t forget the headband to catch the sweat and, of course, the most expensive vitamin/mineral flavored water.

The concept of regular exercise is quite daunting for many people. It implies hours each day and dollars most people can’t afford. It creates pictures of people climbing up and down (in place) on machines in the club windows-you know you’ve seen them as you walk down the street.

If I am talking about you, and you are a club member who really enjoys what you are doing, then Bravo. It may even be that I am jealous of you. I certainly encourage folks with the resources to go ahead and join. But only if this is what you really want to do, not what you think you ought to do.

For the others, however, I try to find a happy medium. Instead of the word “exercise,” I start with the phrase “increasing your activity”.” To me, a body in motion as opposed to a body at rest is being active. Using those large muscle groups, like the ones found in your legs, takes a lot of energy, and that energy is what burns calories. When these muscles are used for longer periods of time, your body burns more calories.

Personally, my favorite activity is walking. While it may eventually require a more expensive sneaker (or “walking shoes” as they are called), a regular sturdy sneaker or shoe is fine for beginning a walking program. I encourage my clients to start walking 5 minutes, 3 times a week. Usually they say “but that’s nothing.” Of course I then ask “so what’s stopping you?”

Once they do this for two weeks, I suggest increasing the time to 10 minutes, 3 times a week. Then, every two weeks, adding five minutes until they are walking 30-40 minutes three times a week-and lastly, adding an additional day, so they are walking a total of 40-45 minutes 4 times a week. This doesn’t have to be at one time, especially if you don’t have that large a block of free time. Studies suggest that walking 10 minutes 3-4 times a day may be just as beneficial as a single 45 minute walk. I recommend the “talk don’t whistle” method of measuring intensity. This means if you can whistle while you are walking, your pace is too slow. If you can’t talk while you’re walking, your pace is too fast.

So, whether you are a hiker or a walker, a club member or a solitary biker, remember, words don’t matter-staying active does.

Copyright (c) 2008 At Peace With Food