Perhaps in 2019, one of your resolutions is get healthier—eat better, see friends and family more, and maybe even exercise. Getting more (or any!) exercise can be a daunting proposition: there seems to be so much to know to get started, that just the work to get started in itself may put you off.
First, if you have a chronic health condition, speak with your doctor to ensure it is safe to exercise. In the meantime, if you need to wait for the green light, it may be safe for you to start with gentle stretching (consider search for chair yoga videos on YouTube) and walking, even if that’s just a few minutes a day. You know your body and your needs.
If your doctor says you should not exercise
Even if your doctor says it’s not safe for you to exercise currently, ask him or her what you can do, and express your plans—they may envision you jumping from your couch to a full on run! There are many ways to get started with exercise depending on your health and fitness level at present, so explore with your doctor what some gentler options might be, such as continuing with chair yoga while seated, practicing balance exercises (as simple as standing on one foot—having a railing nearby to help steady yourself can help!), or walking. Ensure you and your doctor have a mutual understanding of what you are envisioning as exercise—which can change as you progress toward reaching your goals!
If your doctor doctor says you can exercise
You’ve got the green light? Excellent. First thing’s first, you may feel safer wearing medical ID jewelry while exercising, just in case. In a previous article, we looked at what medical ID styles may be ideal for exercise or in and around water (hint: all My Identity Doctor styles are safe for use in water!).
As well, whether you’ll be outdoors, in your house, or at the gym, carry medical supplies with you, such as inhalers, blood glucose monitors and low blood glucose treatments, and EpiPens. Carrying a phone with you can not only be a source of security knowing you can call for assistance, but also can give you a source of music or entertainment (such as podcasts!) to listen to. I find sometimes music pushes me to keep going a little longer (just one more song!), and other times, I can motivate myself to keep pedalling the exercise bike till the end of the podcast I’m listening to, going for longer than I intended!
Taking a class can be a great way to get started—ask the organization or gym if the instructor can contact you ahead of time so you can discretely inform them of your medical condition and tell them you’re new to exercise. Most instructors are happy to help offer modifications for those who are new or have injuries or disabilities that may affect their movement. Remember, they’re there to help you! Meeting a personal trainer for a session or two can be a bit of an expense, but it can also help you learn to safely use gym equipment, and they can develop a program that can help you gradually work towards your goals, starting where you’re able to.
Finding a friend to exercise with is also helpful, and sometimes even more-so if you are doing home-based exercise or walking in your community. You can work out together, or simply call or text one another to keep each other accountable. Sometimes, tracking your progress on a website or app can help you see those miles or repetitions add up—I’ve found the site dailymile especially encouraging for beginners (join some groups and people will add you as friends!), as well as people like myself who experience frequent derailment of their exercise train (whether that’s due to my asthma or just my life in general!). If you’re looking for something more robust, or that can connect with Fitbit or other services, check out MapMyFitness (or MapMyWalk or MapMyRun, depending what you’re up to—they all account for all activities though!). Overall, I’ve found it easiest to “meet” encouraging people on Dailymile, though the MapMyFitness family of apps has a nice added element of “positive peer pressure” as I call it, as it sends you a notification when friends complete workouts! (I’ve always been impressed at my friend who walks every morning after getting her kids to school!).
How did you start—and stick with—an exercise plan?