Increasing your activity
Kayla Thompson, MS, ACSM-EP
Put down the Christmas cookie. I repeat. Put down the Christmas cookie!
We are entering into a new season. For most people, a new year sparks interest in a “new you” followed by setting goals to bring those thoughts to fruition. The most common resolution Americans make each year is to lose weight. Often, the mention of weight loss comes with the dreaded reminder of failed diets, counting calories, and that not-so-kind juice cleanse you tried that one time. But not today, today we are talking about the often-overlooked topic of activity.
Activity can be a means to lose weight and stay healthy. Incorporating more activity into your day can be a game changer for your overall health. Increased activity can lead to weight loss, provide more energy, and assist with managing many health issues. A few safe and effective ways to become more active in the new year include: going for a ten-minute walk, having a dance party in the living room with the family, getting in the kitchen and cooking a meal, or using a basket instead of a cart at the grocery store.
Activity does not have to mean countless hours on the treadmill or exercise bike. Being more active in the new year could be as simple as parking in the back parking spot at work and walking in. Small doses and fun choices are important things to keep in mind when planning to increase your activity. Often coming out of the gate too fast can lead to getting hurt. I always go back to the tortoise and the hare story – slow and steady wins the race. Gradually add in more activity over time. Don’t try to become an Olympian overnight.
Competing with friends or family members can be a fun way to increase your activity. Try setting a weekly step goal with co-workers, loser buys coffee at the end of the week! Compete with those distant relatives in a family dance off through video calls and have judges decide who wins. Dance that heart rate up and laugh with the people you love. Let’s be honest, bragging rights are a big deal. Use activity competitions amongst each other to succeed.
Staying motivated can be quite tough when you are trying to make changes and set goals. Use the community you have to help motivate you. Getting the family involved in outside activities like kicking a ball, throwing a frisbee, or maybe tackling that unruly flower bed you’ve neglected since last year, are all great steps to putting your new active lifestyle to good use. If you lack that community, try incorporating activity into regular routines. Commercial break activity is an easy way to get the blood flowing at the end of the day. Every time commercials come on the TV, choose to do an activity like jumping jacks, pushups, or bodyweight squats. Use those short breaks to increase your heart rate and get the body moving.
A word of caution for those of you who are newly active; it is extremely easy to fall into the trap of comparing your progress to those around you and on social media. This is folly at its finest. It’s important to focus on your personal goals and starting points. A great recommendation is to
take weekly measurements or progress pictures. These things can be great to refer to on those days that seem daunting.
Lastly, a great tool for jumping into activity safely is by logging activity. Keeping track of your activity can be a great guide and motivator on those tough days. You can use a simple pen and notebook, download an app, or just use the notes section in your phone. Whatever route you choose to take, keep track, and see your changes. This will allow you to see how much you are actually doing and where you can increase your activity. For those of you wanting some inspiration to get started, read on to see the activity of the month.
The activity of the month is walking. Walking is a simple activity that most people can participate in. Try increasing how many steps you take this month. Track it by recording how long of a time you walk. You can also use a pedometer or wearable activity tracker. Try setting a total number of steps for the month or a total amount of time spent walking for the month.
I’ll see ya out there!
Kayla Thompson is a patient account representative at the HopeHealth Medical Plaza in Florence and is a certified exercise physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine. She has a Master of Science in clinical exercise science