Small Changes, Big Results: A Path to Being Active.
By: Travis McGill, DPT, Claremore Clinic
Another New Year has arrived and it is now time to set those goals that we all seem to forget about 1 month into the New Year. What is it about our goals for fitness, exercise, and health that are so difficult to meet? What are some realistic goals to set? How can I stay motivated and consistently work toward the goals I set? For most of us, we are not trying to train for the Olympics or are considering a career change to become a professional athlete, requiring the best possible conditioning that can be achieved. Most of us simply want to improve our overall health while looking better and feeling better at the same time. When it comes to achieving a goal as simple as this, there really isn’t any secret for getting there. Many of us set unrealistic goals of working out every day, changing our diet in a radical way, and reversing all habits that we perceive as a problem in our lives. Aspiring to do those things is great; however, creating those expectations to be accomplished all at once is a recipe for failure. We are all “creatures of habit” and therefore we tend to revert back to old habits that have been developed over years of doing things a certain way. It is not impossible to change an old habit “cold turkey”, but in most cases it is unrealistic to place that big of a demand for change in your life in such a short amount of time.
As a therapist, I approach patient treatment with high expectations for long-term outcomes, but realize that it will take small progressive steps to get there. When setting goals for patient’s to improve their present health condition, I make sure to stay mindful about the demand the new exercises and lifestyle changes will place on the patient’s life. If goals are set too high early in treatment, and exercises are too demanding, it creates undue stress and discouragement that elicits a feeling of failure. If the patient’s mind is not motivated and encouraged through success, the likelihood for high achievement and great improvement in the patient’s functional condition is greatly reduced. Starting easy with steady progression into higher level exercises is a great way to build confidence and motivation to continue toward the long-term goals and outcomes. It is imperative that patient’s learn this to successfully rehab most conditions. Optimal rehab requires a patient to consistently perform their exercises at home and make the necessary lifestyle changes that will promote an improved health status.
There is no secret how to successfully become healthier and develop habits that can become permanent parts of your life. The principles used in rehab can be applied to making goals for the New Year’s resolutions. Start with easy realistic goals that won’t require too much demand in the beginning, then slowly and progressively work toward the higher level activities and exercises you want to achieve. Make sure you build in some level of tolerance for error, and that demands are not so high that success is ruined if you miss doing your exercises one day, or indulge in something that you really enjoy but might not be the healthiest habit for your body. Keep exercise goals simple and understandable. If you engage in an exercise regimen that contains a high number of exercises, you may become discouraged to find time to fit in your exercise, and thus not be consistent with performing your exercise routine. Make exercise routines efficient and enjoyable, embedding exercise in your everyday activities. Try walking around the supermarket carrying a hand held basket if you don’t need all of the space of a wheeled shopping cart. You will engage your core muscles and build strength and stability in your shoulders that tend to weaken over time. Most of all, take pride in what you are doing and stay motivated, knowing that the investment in your health will have a positive impact in all facets of your life.
Here are some suggestions for implementing small changes in your life that can make a big difference in your health. *Included is a small exercise routine that is very well rounded for increasing strength and conditioning in muscle groups that tend to become the most deconditioned with inactivity.*
- Begin reducing sugar in your diet. The majority of Americans eat much more sugar than what is recommended, accounting for the high incidence of obesity and diabetes in America. If you drink pop every day, try reducing your consumption of pop to every other day and substituting water in its place. Treat pop as a dessert rather than a regular beverage that is to be consumed at every meal. If there is another beverage that you regularly drink that contains a high amount of sugar, such as sports drinks or types of coffee and cappuccino’s, try reducing your consumption to half and substitute water.
- Walk more. Current recommendations for amount of steps that should be taken every day are 10,000 steps. Many are not coming close to the recommended amount of steps they should take each day. Start by setting aside at least 10 min a day for walking, and work up to 20 min per day to meet the minimal suggested amount. Stop looking for the closet parking spot in the parking lot. You will find that the furthest spot is usually much more available, and you can get in a nice brisk walk to knock out some of those steps you owe yourself.
- Get rid of the remote. I know this sounds outrageous, but if you try to watch TV without using the remote, you will soon realize how many times you will go from sitting to standing to adjust the channel or change the volume, working those anti-gravity muscles that tend to weaken and become deconditioned faster than any of the other muscle groups. You may also realize that it’s not as convenient as you desire, helping you to cut down on time spent in front of the screen and creating energy to get up and do something physical.
- Start a simple exercise regimen. Many people are intimated with the notion of getting up and working out. I believe this is the case due to people being way too hard on themselves and feeling a level of shame for their current physical condition. I have experienced patient’s telling me of the things they were once able to do, and now they are not a fraction of what they once were. My suggestion is to be proud of your past, but accept where you are now, and move forward to a higher level of physical conditioning. You don’t have to be as fit as you once were, especially if age is working against you. The human body changes with time, but it is very dynamic and will respond to exercise no matter what a person’s age. Many will be very surprised of the improvements in physical condition they make by simply performing a basic exercise routine consistently throughout the week.
*The following page contains a great, basic workout that should take no more than 20-30 min that will address those troublesome muscle groups that tend to become deconditioned with inactivity. The routine will also help to improve balance and stability that tends to decline very quickly as people age and become less active.
Click below to download the PDF:
**Make sure you are healthy enough to begin an exercise routine by having an annual physical with your doctor. Most people should have no issue beginning exercise; however, there could be underlying health conditions that may need to be addressed first before beginning an exercise regimen.