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Monday, May 27, 2024

Ease Into Exercise Routines This Spring

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Having trouble getting off the couch? You’re not alone. The World Health Organization (WHO) concludes that more than 25% of adults aren’t meeting the weekly minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise. In more than 20 years, according to WHO, the world has made zero progress with exercise. Yet we could avoid 1 in 10 early deaths if we managed just 50% of the minimal amount of exercise advised, according to a February 2023 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine by Leandro Garcia, D.Sc., et al.
Getting started is, of course, the struggle. Fitness gurus have convinced us we can and should go from zero to Captain America in weeks. Our New Year’s Resolutions are so unreasonable that a term has been coined for the second Friday in January: Quitters Day. What we need is habit stacking: small tweaks to routines we already practice. The American College of Lifestyle Medicine recommends observing your daily routines for 30 days to seek out possibilities for adaptations.
Consider, for example, the 20-8-2 rule, where you sit for 20 minutes, stand for eight and move for two. If you know you will always spend two hours on a Saturday binge watching TV, break up that sedentary block with some standing and walking. Do jumping jacks or even just walks around your home when one episode ends and the other begins. Before long, you won’t even register that you’re doing it.
You can also find simple methods to improve your workplace activity habits. If you’re in an office job with too much sitting, consider converting a regular meeting with a coworker into a walking conversation whenever possible. Use the stairs or a more distant parking spot.
Social routines can also benefit from habit stacking. If you regularly get together with friends for ice cream, meet at a shop near a trail and walk together before the treat. Alternatively, take advantage of local opportunities, such as the physical activity assessments, walking groups, low-impact and chair exercise classes and free gym memberships available to patients through the Eskenazi Health Healthy Me program.
The American Heart Association lists numerous small changes you can make to existing habits, such as stretching as you chat on the phone, dancing as you prepare dinner or doing squats as you brush your teeth. You might feel silly doing some of these exercises at first, but you won’t once you start to feel better, sleep better and increase your energy — all common outcomes of better exercise. Once you begin these steps, greater strides will become easier.
If you have questions about how much exercise you should introduce, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor or find one through Eskenazi Health Connections at 317.880.7666.
Broderick Rhyant, M.D., chief physician executive with Eskenazi Health Center Grande

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