Many middle aged and older people do not exercise regularly. When they do think of getting in shape, the usual choice has always been going to the gym in Westernized societies. Interestingly, from my personal experience helping people to gain back their fitness, going to the gym is actually counter-productive and often leading to unnecessary injuries. To get in shape, it is more about proper planning than the short term drive to look and feel better.
Doing a Little Here and There
When I am asked by others on how to get in shape, they always focus on a particular type of activities. Here are a few good examples.
“I like to get in shape. I heard that you practice Tai Chi. I learned that Tai Chi is good for health. Can you teach me Tai Chi?”
“What exercise you are doing to stay fit? I like to try that.”
Being someone very thorough with whatever I do. I usually ask a lot of questions to see the fitness level with these individuals. For those who are really out of shape, my suggestion has always been “doing a little here and there” is enough for the first few months.
Younger readers will probably think that I am messing with them. No, I am not. For people very out of shape, there is no one type of exercise that can improve their health quickly. The best choice is to integrate more activities into their lifestyle as oppose to having specific training sessions.
First, just one 15-minute training in the gym will usually drive 90% of these individuals away. It can be the humiliation. It can be the hard reality of huffing and puffing after very mild exercise. It can be many other things as well. But the theme is the same, the experience is so discouraging that they likely resent doing it again.
Second, scheduling oneself to go to a gym is creating the pre-condition to not going there. All the extra efforts needed to get to a gym provided so many possible excuses in the future to skip the sessions. In other words, it is an idea that is destined to failure for most people with the rare exception of those with very strong will and determination.
How to Get Started
It can all start from waking up in bed. Instead of getting out of it at once, you can simply tighten your stomach 10 to 20 times while still lying on the bed. Many people struggle to open their eyes anyway before they can get out of bed, that time window is perfect for simple stomach tighten activity.
While doing the morning routine in the washroom, or at the kitchen, adding a few squats here and there does not hurt. It does not have to be perfect. The goal is not training for very strong muscles. The goal is to wake the muscles up and get them more active in general.
Walk a bit more instead of sitting all day in front of the work desk helps.
Keep an alarm to tell yourself it is time to take a break from your desk and do some mild stretching also helps.
Repeating my point – to get better health, it does not have to be going straight for the hard core exercise with sweat and pain. It can come from just a bit more active to get things started. Key to success in transforming a life without exercise is to add them in a way that is stress-free with positive feedback.
The Power of Doing Just a Little
So the next question people usually ask is whether doing just a little helps. My observation is that it makes all the difference. Usually people who started integrating micro exercises in their lives will have more energy and more alert in just couple of weeks. In about a month, they would have built the foundation to do more as they have achieved minimal fitness needed for more rigorous exercises.
The most interesting thing though, is that there is really no need to do extra exercises at this stage either. All it takes is making the micro exercise activities harder. For example, there is no need to do stomach tightening many more repetitions. Just tighten and hold a little longer each time will do. Doing squats follow a similar upgrade path by doing it in better forms and dropping lower each time.
This cycle of upgrading the efforts can take a few months. Once the optimal level is reached, it is really up to the person to see if they want more in terms of physical fitness. Some people desire the body of an athlete. Some people don’t. Having an active lifestyle can be enough for majority of people whose intention is to become healthier and feel better.
Stress-Free Approach Takes Planning
What I suggested here is no difference from helping someone with traumatizing injuries or post surgery conditions. Physiotherapists know that it takes time to rebuild someone with weak body conditions. But normal people do not know how out of shape they are until their physical finesses being challenged. By understanding what to aim for, as I lay out the approach and overall progression method, there is really no excuse not to help yourself to get in shape.
Seriously, no money in the world can replace our health.