Resolution: Develop an exercise plan that involves more than lifting the remote
"New year, new you!" This is a catchy slogan, and often an idea that motivates people to take another shot at accomplishing a goal they may have had trouble with or completely failed the previous year. This frequently involves weight loss, something I have witnessed both in personal and professional interactions. When you think about it, the concept is quite simple. Energy going in (calories) has to be less than what goes out (used by the body for energy). It is important to emphasize this before getting into the particulars of calorie categories (carbs, proteins, fats) and the quality (simple sugars, complex carbs, etc).
Why it so hard to be successful then?
Several aspects of this have to be reframed, the first being the concept of exercise. When I speak with patients regarding their physical activity, most believe that exercise can only be done in a gym and with equipment. I would classify any activity when you are moving technically as exercise, and the benefits come from the duration of activity and getting your heart rate up a bit. It is also helpful to integrate this into activities they are regularly participating in. For example, parking a bit farther from the entrance of a store you to go frequently. Or if you work in retail, walk a few extra laps around your store during your shift. I believe that step and fitness trackers help greatly in this regard as they are unobtrusive and encouraging you to just do more of what you are already doing to achieve activity goals.
The second aspect that is important to pay attention to goes back to the old mantra "no pain no gain". Pain is a very important signal that generally is the alarm letting you know something is wrong and you should avoid it. Lots of people reach exceptional motivational and want to hit the ground running, but overdoing it and end up quitting due to actual injury or a prolonged recovery period where the soreness related to the workup lasts a few days and interrupts their daily routine, the most common injuries being muscle strains or tendon/ligament strains. To temper this, I often stress that the path to success is slow and steady. Weight loss requires changes in the most difficult aspect to address, lifestyle. They key is integrating small changes to accomplish a long lasting goal, as well as adequate preparation (this means stretching!). This is an important reason that people should consult with their physician prior to starting an exercise program. This can reveal and help mitigate any risk of injury that may be related to overall physical health at the time.
Many people correlate their health with how they feel at any given moment and are unlikely to consider any chronic condition having any significant impact in their ability to participate. This is where their physician can give an objective opinion and discuss common issues and recommendations to help prevent any complications that an exercise program can introduce. For example, a patient with well controlled asthma may wish to avoid early morning or late in the day aerobic exercise since cold air can also cause some constriction in their airways; a patient that has a history of heart attack will want to limit the stress exposed to with aerobic exercise; diabetics on insulin may need recommendations on adjustments to their medications based on energy expenditure.
A race car driver doesn't just hit the track without input from his mechanic and other team members! Your provider knows what is under the hood and is a great asset in working with you (the driver) to achieve the best tune for the path your are planning to take. The quality of the fuel matters, so diet should always be discussed in conjunction with your provider when you working towards a healthier lifestyle. The most common injuries occur from overdoing it; while the motivation is excellent it must be stressed that we are working towards a broad goal that takes time and commitment to be successful.
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