8 small steps to start getting in shape

For many people, starting a regular exercise routine is daunting thought. The key to starting is to make small adjustments in attitude. Use these tips to guide you into making a subtle foray into an active lifestyle.

8 small steps to start getting in shape

1. Change your mindset

  • Don't think, "I should exercise."
  • Think, "a quick stroll now would clear my head," or "a swim in the morning would give me more energy for the day."

2. Do something you enjoy

  • Some people love going to the gym; others feel intimidated by all the equipment.
  • Some feel motivated if they take classes with other people; others prefer jogging solo.
  • Some people are most energetic first thing in the morning; others are better in the afternoon.
  • Make your chosen activity fit your personality and lifestyle.

3. Start small

  • If you find exercise hard, start by doing just 10 minutes on three days a week — then 15 minutes, then four times a week, and so on.
  • Take at least one day off from your routine each week.

4. Make exercise fit into your routine

  • If you have to travel a long way to get to where you exercise, at a time of day that makes it hard to fit in with other commitments, you'll probably give up in a week.
  • Schedule activity at a convenient place and time.

5. Get the right clothing

  • Choose loose, comfortable clothes for exercising.
  • If you decide to go running, get proper footwear; nothing undermines exercise plans faster than pain or injury.
  • If it boosts your confidence, buy some attractive running gear or a new bathing suit.

6. Stick to the schedule

  • If you can't face a 30-minute workout, don't just sink into the nearest armchair — go for a walk instead.
  • But keep to your routine.
  • If it starts to rain right when you had planned to go for a bike ride through the park, vacuum the living room or clean the windows instead (yes, housework does count).

7. Be honest

  • Don't fall back on the excuse that you are "too busy" to do exercise.
  • Think about how much time you spend sitting during the day: Americans spend about three hours a day watching TV, and Statistics Canada puts average Canadian TV time at about 2.1 hours a day.
  • If you're really strapped for time, spread activity into shorter bursts throughout the day.

8. Before you start jogging

Jogging is a very effective way to achieve cardiovascular fitness and burn calories, but you have to start slowly, particularly if you haven't done any running before. Make sure that you follow these guidelines:

  • Buy a comfortable pair of good running shoes that cushion and support your feet. You should buy a new pair every six months if you run regularly.
  • Always warm up thoroughly before you start.
  • Take things slowly at first — for instance, start by walking most of the way, then gradually include periods of jogging. As you become fitter, you can gradually increase the time you run.
  • You will need to breathe a little harder (to get more oxygen into your body), but you should still be able to talk to a friend while you jog. If you can't, you might be overdoing it. If you get uncomfortably winded, slow down or walk until you recover.
  • Bear in mind that, although jogging is less stressful than sprinting, it is still a relatively high-impact activity and not always suitable for people with knee or ankle problems.
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