Exercise: Simple Strategies To Get Started


Exercise may be the closest thing to being the fountain of youth.

Not only does regular activity strengthen your muscles and improve heart and lung function, it can also reduce your risk of illness and disease, stimulate the growth of new brain cells, and add years to your life.  No pill or elixir that can do all that!  

Studies show that just 30 minutes of physical activity on most days is all that’s required to reap big benefits. The range of health bonuses attributed to exercise has been studied extensively. 

Most of us know that exercise is good for us, but making the time is often a challenge with busy schedules. Often we put it off due to “no time.” There are lots of reasons why exercise is important if not critical for our health. 

5 Benefits From Regular Workouts

1. Working Out Keeps You Young

Workouts such as a simple brisk walk or even cycling boost the amount of oxygen consumed during exercise. Improving your aerobic capacity by just 15-25 percent would be like shaving 10-20 years off your age. Working out can keep you flexible, limber and strong.

2. Reduce Infections

Moderate workouts can temporarily rev-up the immune system by increasing the aggressiveness or capacity of immune cells. That might be why people who exercise catch fewer colds.

3. Control Blood Sugar

Exercise helps maintain a healthy blood sugar level by increasing the cells' sensitivity to insulin and by controlling weight. A regular habit of simple brisk walks can significantly cut the risk of developing Type II Diabetes. 

4. Combat Stress

Regular aerobic exercise lowers levels of stress hormones. For many people, exercise helps relieve depression as effectively as antidepressant medication.

5. Prolong Life

Studies lasting many years have consistently shown that being active cuts the risk of premature death by about 50% for both men and women. 

(Adapted from Consumers Reports, September 2007) 

In a nutshell, exercise helps us move better, look better, feel better and age better. But the fact is, many of us aren’t exercising nearly as often as we should.

Roadblocks, Strategies, Motivations

The bottom line is that if you make exercise a big enough priority you'll find the time and get past the roadblocks. I know for me, it was easy to make excuses as to why I didn’t have the time. Looking back, it’s obvious I wasn’t ready to make it important enough.  

Once I decided to make it a priority, everything fell into place. I started losing unwanted fat and trimmed down, and built some lean muscle (which helps you burn more fat). I felt better and looked better, and this gave me more motivation to keep going. 

Will one workout make a difference? Certainly not. Will four workouts make a difference? Not really. Would 208 workouts year make a difference? Most definitely!  If you were to exercise just four times a week for a year, that would be 208 workouts! Do you think you would look and feel any differently at that point? Absolutely! 

Most of us tend to not look at the big picture or look into the future to see how our daily decisions shape where we will be 6-12 months from now, much less 10, 20 or 30 years from now. It’s too easy to get discouraged. We want results and we want them NOW! Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. 

You just have to decide to start, then make a plan and stick to it. You WILL see results IF you don’t give up. 

So, the first step is DECIDING that exercise is a priority and working other things in your schedule around it. If it’s not a big enough priority,  the “excuses” will always creep in.    

Before starting any activity, think about how active you are now and what a realistic, short-term activity level goal is (for the next 2-3 weeks or so).  

If you haven’t been very active and you feel pretty out of shape, starting out with six days a week isn’t a great idea. Perhaps two or three days a week is a good place to start.  

If you want to exercise more than three to four days a week, it’s a good idea to start out with 10-20 minutes a day. Starting out slowly and then gradually increase the time, intensity and frequency of your workouts, will not only increase your chances of successfully adding regular exercise as part of your lifestyle, it will gradually build your strength and stamina and reduce the chance of injury.  

Set a goal challenging enough but not too challenging that you get discouraged. 

Important: Check with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine!

Select Exercises That Are Right For You

“When you shop for clothes, not every outfit you try on is right for you, but when you find the perfect one, doesn’t it make you feel great? The same is true of exercise. Not every activity you try, whether it’s a weight circuit, a kickboxing class, or a hike through the woods will fit you like a custom-made suit. But when you find the workout that suits your current fitness level, your budget, and your personality, it’s a fantastic feeling!”  - Fitness for Dummies 

The best piece of advice I received was to make fitness about play. If you make it about something you enjoy doing, then it won't feel like a chore and burden.

Think about something you enjoyed doing as a kid - a game you played, a sport you tried, dance lessons? Is that something you can start doing again?

Now let’s make a plan! See how this might fit into your schedule:

For the next four weeks, I am going to "play" (exercise) ____________ times a week for approximately ____________ minutes.  After four weeks, I will evaluate how I feel and make it a goal to work up to "playing" (exercising) ___________ times a week for approximately _________________ minutes a day.  
I am ready to put myself at the top of my list of priorities and commit to making exercise part of my routine every week.  
I have the days/times of my workouts scheduled on my calendar because it’s important and non-negotiable. I can do this!  

Be sure to schedule your exercise on your calendar! Make an appointment with yourself. 

The best time to workout is the time that works for YOU. Not everyone can exercise before work, so if that’s the case, what DOES work for you? Does it mean a long walk at lunch? A yoga class before the commute home? 

Map it out in detail. Does that mean it will work best to exercise right after work or after an early dinner?   

Just Say “No” to Excuses 

There’s a difference between asking yourself “CAN I fit it in?”  versus “WHERE can I fit it in?”  

If it’s important enough, you can find even 20-minutes, right? I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but once you get started and see how great you feel (and look) you are going to be surprised at how much more energy you have and how much your workout becomes easier and more enjoyable.  

If you’re like most people, exercise will become a necessary part of your life and you’ll feel ‘off’ when you don’t workout. 

Remember my post about setting your priorities, goals, and your WHY?  This is a good time to revisit those goals if exercise is an area where you “feel stuck.” 

Habits aren’t always easy to change, but you’re worth the effort and in a few short weeks, you are going to see and feel the difference!  

Common Roadblocks

Let’s look at some common roadblocks to fitness. If this is an area in which you need help, you’re not alone. 

{If you already have a regular workout routine, that is fantastic! Feel free to skip this section.}
The Top 3 Roadblocks To Fitness:

1. Time - feeling like there’s no time to exercise:

If you struggle with finding the time for exercise, you may be surprised at the simple ways to fit exercise into your day. 

Having an active lifestyle means making choices to move more.  

  • Choose to walk up the steps instead of taking the elevator.
  • Walk to places that are within walking distance.
  • Park farther away from the store and walk to the entrance. 
  • Set aside one block of time each day to be active. Decide on the best time to reserve 20-30 minutes to do an activity you enjoy. 

If one block of time won’t work, think about trying smaller blocks of time, for example, 10-minutes 3 times a day or 15 minutes twice a day. 

Tip: Check out the 7-min Workout app. It gives you a circuit workout you can do for 7-minutes. If you have more time you can extend it by doing multiple rounds!

Replace less active blocks of time with active ones:

  • Walk for half an hour instead of watching TV, surfing the Internet or hanging out on social media.
  • Instead of sitting down to read a book, read while doing some low-intensity cardio.
  • Stand more while you’re at work. If you have the option to get a standing desk to work at, they are an awesome way to eliminate the usual long hours in a chair. Many of us sit for more than 10 hours each day, which is bad for our posture and activity level.   
  • Use a Swiss Ball (aka as a yoga ball) as a chair at your desk. This forces you to engage your core throughout the day and challenges your balance.   

Think about your likes and dislikes when it comes to being active. This will help you to decide what you want to do and how much activity is right for you. 

Plan activities you enjoy! Remember what I said about making fitness about play?! What are some activities you’d like to try? Indoor rock climbing, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), canoeing, hiking, yoga, dancing, martial arts, a new fitness studio? The possibilities are endless.

Remember, daily decisions, over time, make us who we are and who we want to become.  

2. Knowledge: not sure what exercises to do: 

Sometimes people aren’t sure what kind of workout best suits them or where to find help. 

They don’t know “how” to practice yoga. They’d like to increase their strength but aren’t sure how or which weights to use. After all these years, I still sometimes struggle with this too! 

If this sounds like you, it might be good to just start with walking for now. After 3-4 weeks, you can add some strength training, interval training, yoga or another form of exercise. The main thing, for now, is to not over analyze things and just get moving doing something. 

You don’t have to join a gym if that’s not your thing. I am more motivated in the gym environment versus trying to do a workout in my living room, but do what works best for you and your budget!

What appeals to you the most? Working out at home, going to the gym, taking a dance or yoga class or outdoor activities? I will take outdoor any day over anything indoors!

Ask for referrals from people you trust. If you’re interested in a gym, yoga studio or dance classes, ask for a trial membership and visit as often as you can during that period of time. 

3. Motivation: not sure why or how to get started and/or stay motivated: 

I hear this a lot: “I just don’t feel motivated to exercise.” Can you relate?  I can, becomes sometimes I feel that way too.

This is where you want to revisit your values, goals, and priorities.

What do you really want and what do you think is holding you back from taking action? What is your goal and why is that important to you?  

I believe it comes down to simply deciding that you are going to do it. The only way to avoid paralysis by analysis is to start with something; baby steps to get you going. 

The truth is, if it’s important enough, you’ll find a way to do it. Instead of the voice in your head that gives you reasons NOT to do it, focus on the reasons why you CAN do it.  

You don’t always have to feel motivated to do something, but when you just start doing it anyway, before you know it, you will have created a new habit. And, you won't regret it!

Sometimes we get hung up with feeling self-conscious and that can hold us back. The truth is, nearly everyone seems to be more worried about how they look and what they’re doing. They don't care how you look or how you’re doing. 

I remember feeling self-conscious when I first started going to the gym. I felt like I didn't belong. Once I realized I had just as much of a right to be there as everyone else did, I started to feel more comfortable. And truth be told, most people at the gym are usually very nice and some even helpful! It's all the endorphins! :) 

It goes without saying that it may be another story if the reason you don’t feel motivated is because you feel run down and tired. If you know why you’re tired or run down, addressing that as soon as possible would be the first step.  

For example, you may not be getting adequate sleep, you may not be eating enough or eating too much, or you could be dealing with way too much stress. 

If you can’t get through your day without caffeine, it could indicate a problem and finding out the cause now can get you on the road to feeling better and getting better results.   

If you aren’t sure of the cause, you may need to see your doctor ensure your nutrient levels, hormone levels, thyroid and adrenal functions are within a normal range. Your doctor may also check other indicators to find out WHY you’re tired. 

Often, clients have a big weight loss goal and until they release a few pounds they don’t feel motivated to exercise. This is okay. Perhaps, for now, the focus needs to be on healthy eating and sleep habits. Once a few pounds come off and someone feels better about themselves, the urge to exercise increases.

So, whether you workout at home or at the gym or outdoors, just know that wherever you are right now, it’s your starting point and it’s okay. 

Progress is exciting and when you stick with it, you will see and feel great results and that builds your confidence. It matters more where you are going than where you are right now, so don’t let that stand in your way.

Exercise is part of achieving balanced health.

And, whether you want to exercise to help you move better, look better, feel better and age better – or to support your weight loss goals by burning more calories – the time to start is now.

Each day you make the decision to exercise is a day closer to reaching your goals.  You can start to see changes within four weeks if you are consistent.  

If you’re competitive or want extra support, you might enjoy having a friend to exercise with. This also helps with the accountability factor.  Just be sure to have a plan for the days that your friend can’t join you. 

Who can you think of who might want to do this with you? Chances are, they have similar goals and you can help each other stay motivated. 

It’s not easy to start being more active. But I’m here to help support you and figure this out together.

Find A Starting Point

One starting point for you train for an event!  Consider a fun event, like a 5k, 10k or Mud Run or something fun. It’s great to have an event to train for so you have a target date to shoot for. Just allow enough time to train properly.  

Things To Keep In Mind

The "FITT" principle of overload states that you must exercise more than normal to build fitness. The principle of progression states that you should gradually increase your exercise in order to work toward your fitness goals:

(F)requency How often you will be exercising (3-6 days a week depending on your current fitness level)? The more you exercise the stronger you’ll get and the easier it will be to build stamina.  

(I)ntensity: Your level of effort while working out. There’s a big difference between just ‘showing up’ and giving your workout 100% effort. You’ll see results quicker when you put in maximum effort. Of course, there are days when your energy may not be quite as high and in those instances, even giving 70% effort is better than none.  

(T)ime: How long you’re exercising. Start where you are now and build from there. It’s okay to start with 10-20 minutes if you are just getting back into a fitness routine, but don’t go too easy on yourself either.  

(T)ype: The kind of exercise you do. It’s best to mix up your routine and incorporate a variety of workouts including; strength, cardio, and intervals. If you’re just beginning, don’t worry about this quite yet. Just get moving with something you find doable. You can add in variety in 3-4 weeks.  

Look at how often you’ll exercise, what type of exercise you’ll be doing, how much effort you can put in, and how long your workouts will be.  

Planning ahead and scheduling time for exercise each week is the best way to make sure something else doesn’t get in the way. It needs to be a high enough priority for it to get done.  

Fitness Gadgets

Other helpful motivators include fitness tracking devices and apps like a Fitbit or Runkeeper. These devices give you an estimate of steps taken, heart rate, sleep patterns and more. They can be a great way to get real-time feedback on your fitness efforts. 

I use a Fitbit because I like to know how many steps I take when I walk my dog three times a day. You can also use a simple pedometer that tracks your steps. 

If you haven't been very active, start with a goal of 5,000 steps a day. Then work your way up to 10,000 steps per day over the next few weeks. Stride lengths differ of course, but 10,000 steps equate to around 5 miles. 

Wearing a tracking device makes you more aware of your activity level throughout the day so you’re more likely to do more. 

Important!: Be sure to check with your doctor if you aren’t sure what daily step goal is right for you. If you have been very sedentary, it may be more realistic to start with fewer than 5,000 steps per day. See what works best for you and adjust from there.  

Focus on your WHY if you start to talk yourself out of your workout. Tell yourself “Do it anyway.” This usually worked for me on the days I just didn’t feel like exercising. Ask yourself “What’s going to get me closer to my goals?” 

I also love how I feel after I workout (energized and happy) so when I imagine how I will feel when I’m done, that’s helpful too!

Important!: It’s important to listen to your body. If you’re sick or feel wiped out, it’s best to rest and recharge so you can come back even stronger. Do not overdue it. 

Also, if you have an injury or health condition, check with your doctor and use your best judgment before returning to your routine.  

Rest when you need to, not when you just ‘want’ to. 

Workout Variety

Once you're warmed up, experts recommend these three different types of exercise for overall physical fitness. They don't all have to be done during the same workout, but doing each on a regular basis will result in balanced fitness.

1. Cardio:

Start by doing an aerobic activity, like walking or running. To ensure you’re working at an optimum level, try the "talk test." Make sure you can carry on a basic level of conversation without being too winded. But if you can easily sing a song, you're not working hard enough. 

Interval training is alternating bursts of high-intensity movement followed by intervals of lighter activity.  

You can mix-up your workout by doing cardio, followed by strength training exercises, then back to cardio. You can also fit this it to your running or walking routine by walking at a regular pace for a few minutes, then follow with a faster pace for a little while, then back to your regular pace.   

2. Strength Training:

Strength training will not bulk you up. Women do not have the testosterone levels that men do so you don’t need to worry about becoming the Hulk!  

Strength training WILL help you reshape your body and help you burn more fat and calories. The more muscle you have, the better your metabolism. 

Plus, it makes you feel strong and empowered! I love strength training!

Strength training can involve body weight exercises, resistance bands, free weights, and weight machines. Basically, anything that creates resistance will improve your level of strength and help tone your body.  

To maximize the benefits, do strength training at least twice a week. Don’t work the same body part two days in a row with strength training. You also want to increase the level of resistance as your body adapts so you continue to see results.  

3. Flexibility:

Someone once told me that the key to aging is flexibility. I believe there's a lot of truth to this!

If you've been sitting for long periods, just standing up and stretching your back and legs can feel so good!

Assuming you are at a beginner level of fitness, with no health complications or contraindications start with some simple stretches. 

If you want a little more, look for a beginner yoga class at your gym or a local studio and take an introductory class. Not all yoga classes are the same so you'll want to find one that is appropriate for all levels.

Use your judgment and common sense to determine what’s best for you. 

Boredom can be the enemy of any workout routine, so keep yourself engaged and entertained when needed.  Having great music to listen to helps the time fly by! 

The best way to avoid problems is to prevent them. Here are some ways to prevent common minor injuries, sore muscles or cramps:

  • Increase your activity level, frequency and intensity gradually
  • Drink plenty of fluids (especially water) before, during, and after being active
  • Warm-up before every activity, and cool-down afterward (10-15 minutes of each!)
  • Seek the advice of your doctor for anything you are not certain you’re ready for or before beginning a new exercise program.   
“Few things in life can match the euphoria you feel after a great workout. Your muscles are tired, you’ve worked up a serious sweat, and your mind is relaxed. And for that moment, you are free of stress and worry and everything else feels amazing”  - Todd Durkin, M.A., C.S.C.S. – author, ‘The Body Impact Plan’ 

Your Homework:

  1. Decide which days and times you will exercise this week. 
  2. Put it on your calendar as if it is an important appointment – because it is an important appointment for yourself!
  3. Determine what type of exercise you will do at each session and how long each workout will be.
  4. Get an Accountabili-Buddy.  Do you have a friend that can join you to help be your accountability partner and also make it more fun?
  5. Come back and tell me what you did and how you felt - leave a comment on this post, or stop by my Facebook page and share your stories!

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Naomi Nakamura is a certified Holistic Health Coach who takes a holistic approach through functional nutrition. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, coaching programs, and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with acne and other chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop! Connect with Naomi at: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest.