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Find that first step for your exercise plan

Exercise can be a simple activity, but the motivation to start isn’t always right around the corner for those with full schedules already.

But the benefits to people’s overall physical and mental health are a part of taking the plunge.

Lacy Puttuck, MS, RD, LD, CISSN, CSCS, says that, “Getting started is kind of the hardest part.”

Puttuck spoke of one way to get motivated to start exercising, on a list of five motivators produced by the Health Plan of Nevada, is getting an old gym bag ready.

“The repurpose an old bag and pack your gym bag, I think has kind of a two fold thing,” Puttuck said. “It just allows you to start planning and allows you to really dive into setting a schedule for exercise.”

Puttuck explained, “That’s what helps you stay motivated because every day, I’ll be the first to tell you that exercise is not easy, and our bodies don’t like being pushed harder than they want to be, but it’s the end result that gives us a really good feeling, so if we do it, we always feel better. It’s the getting there and doing it that’s the hard part. It’s kind of one of the bigger ones.”

On the opposite side, non-motivating actions include planning to exercise three times during the week, but not choosing a specific day, time or picking a specific activity, according to Puttuck.

“I think that’s where people lose motivation because they get to the end of the week, and lo and behold, the week’s over, and they didn’t get their three sessions in,” she said. “It automatically leads to that kind of why even bother.”

How can people get started exercising?

Puttuck says that the first thing to do to get started with exercising if picking an activity that is liked by the exerciser.

“First of all, find an activity you like to do,” she said. “I think that’s kind of No. 1, so if you like to walk, great, walk, if you like to dance, then look at Zumba or an exercise video or join a class.”

Sometimes people say they like to read or watch movies. Get an elliptical trainer or an indoor bike. If you like to be outside, then get a road bike or mountain bike; like I said, go walking.”

Puttuck said, “Try to pick things that do stress our body out, make us breathe hard, make us work hard, but are not so uncomfortable that they’re demotivating; so No. 1, pick an activity that you like to do.”

Exercisers should also have a backup activity.

“And have a couple backups, so that if you do like to be outside, and the weather’s not advantageous,” Puttuck said. “Out here, if it’s 120 degrees out, it’s not good to go out there, so have an alternative. Maybe you have a video you like to do at home or maybe you turn on some music and dance for half an hour.”

Setting a schedule is another way to stay motivated, according to Puttuck

“A lot of times lack of time can be a demotivater, whereas if we schedule out that time and carve it out, it becomes a motivator,” she said.

“The thing about it is if you don’t have two hours to burn on exercise, maybe going to the gym is not your best solution, maybe it is doing something at home so that it only takes that 30 minutes of time,” Puttuck said. ““That’s how we stay motivated. We don’t’ try to make things that are not realistic to our day and our lives.”

How long should exercise last?

Puttuck said, “Recommendations currently are at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week of cardiovascular exercise.”

This can include things such as walking, biking, swimming, kickboxing and Zumba.

“It’s also recommended to do two to three times a week of resistance exercise: weights or bands or even body weight exercises like yoga or Pilates to keep the muscles strong,” Puttuck said. “Both are equally important when it comes to fitness and weight loss.”

There are benefits to the cardiovascular and resistance exercises.

“The cardiovascular exercise helps burn energy and improve the cardiovascular system,” she said. “Resistance exercise helps keep the metabolism high, helps our muscles and joints stay strong. It also helps reduce a lot of pain.”

Puttuck said, “The other big benefit of resistance exercise is it can actually keep our brain healthier because it’s making our muscles work, so as we age, our brain can stay healthier by doing resistance exercise a few times a week.”

Can exercise be done at home?

Puttuck said, “You can do everything at home. That’s kind of the beauty of exercises is (a) you don’t need equipment, and all you need is a body and a floor.

“One of my favorite things to say to people is you really don’t need anything except you,” she said. “Exercise can be as simple as turning on your favorite half-hour TV show and marching in place at moderate intensity for that whole half-hour. It could be that simple. Or, like I said, if you want to do resistance exercise, our own body weight, doing things like squats and push-ups and crunches and things like that, yoga or Pilate moves.”

Exercisers at home could also “soup cans as weight or water jugs, or even the resistance bands are fairly inexpensive; so there’s multiple ways to get exercise at home,” Puttuck said. “If you have a set of stairs at home, that’s great cardiovascular exercise.”

Also, Puttuck said. “Most video streaming services have free exercise videos. I know YouTube does, I know Amazon does. A lot of them have free exercise videos. They’re very easy to find for no cost anymore.”

Benefits of exercise?

Some of the benefits to exercise can be to mental health.

“Exercise has been shown to be one of the most powerful stress relievers because it helps clear the head,” Puttuck said. “We get oxygen to the brain, and it releases those endorphins that allow us to deal with stress more effectively, so it doesn’t kind of eat us up. Exercise is an extremely powerful tool for mental health.”

Puttuck did point out one thing concerning weight loss and people starting to exercise, which is the reason many people plan to start exercise.

“That seems to be kind of a primary focus,” she said. “They exercise to lose weight, and that really is kind of defeating in a lot of ways, because exercise does assist in the weight loss process. But It’s benefit to health in general, though, far exceed it.”

Puttuck said. “Exercise has a positive effect on every body system, so by doing regular exercise, we’re having a profound effect on our health in general, which then leads to positive weight loss outcomes. That’s one thing for people to know about exercise is that yes it does help weight loss, but it has a much more profound effect on our health in general that leads to weight loss.”

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