Getting (Back) Into Physical Activity, at Your Pace

YMCAs of Québec - January 22 2024

A new year, a new set of resolutions! And for many of us, these resolutions include starting or getting back into exercise. But good intentions alone are not always enough to stick with the goals we set for ourselves in January.

While most of us know the importance of being active, putting this knowledge into practice is often quite the challenge. Lack of time, structure, or energy—incorporating physical activity into our daily life can be difficult, especially on our own. In fact, one in four adults throughout the world does not meet the recommended levels of physical activity1.  Read on to discover a few simple ways to integrate new habits into your life.

First, What Is Physical Activity?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), physical activity is “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure.”2

Concretely, this can mean working out in a fitness centre, riding a bike, or just walking. It can even include active recreation and play. At the recommended levels, physical activity has diverse benefits and impacts all aspects of our lives by:

  • Improving muscular and cardiorespiratory fitness
  • Increasing mobility and flexibility and reducing the risk of falls
  • Reducing the risks of hypertension, stroke, and diabetes
  • Helping to maintain a healthy body weight
  • Promoting a feeling of overall well-being
  • Improving overall mental health and reducing the risk or symptoms of depression

So How do I Get (Back) Into Physical Activity?

Regardless of your background or experience, whether you are a beginner or well versed in a physical activity, there are steps you can take to increase your chances for success and help you keep up the good habits. Here are a few examples:

  • Find the activity that suits you
    Not all activities were created equal and having fun should be a priority. Maybe you already know what you like. Or maybe you do not. If that is the case, do not worry, you are not alone. Do not hesitate to try out different activities to find the one that suits you best. Start off with straightforward activities, such as running, swimming, or cycling, or even team sports, if you feel like that is for you. With time, you will be able to figure out what you like, and exercise will feel less like a chore.
  • Develop a routine around physical activity
    Just like the activity itself, preparation is key. For example, turning stretching into a ritual or starting with simple movements can help get your mind—and body—ready for physical effort. Once the activity has started, stick with an order and maintain a constant level of effort your body can manage.
  • Define your goalsWhether you want to build muscle, become more flexible, lose weight, or simply get active, ask yourself what you want to accomplish and which goals you want to achieve (e.g., running a marathon, swimming a certain distance, or getting to a target weight).
  • Move at your pace
    Whatever activity you chose, remember to listen to your body and respect your limits. Injuries often happen because we push ourselves too hard from the get-go. Mastering an activity takes time and listening to the signals your body is sending you—pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, and so forth—is critical. Being active should not be a competition and you will be more successful if you stick with a level of effort that is right for you.
  • Take the time to recover between workout sessions
    Rest is just as important for your body as the actual exercise. In fact, rest will allow you to get better results in the long term and will ensure your body works in an optimal manner at each training session.
  • Consider private training
    Private training can help you define your goals, become comfortable with physical activity, and avoid injury. And the relationship you develop with your private trainer will be just as important as it is part of the process. Your private trainer will guide you throughout your journey and towards your goals … and help you set new ones as your fitness evolves. The support of a private trainer can really make a big difference in your experience and it is therefore crucial that you pick the right person to work with.

How to Start Moving?

Any sort of physical activity is a step in the right direction. Your journey can start with a simple daily walk, a bike ride, choosing public transit for your commutes, reducing your screen time, or just keeping sedentary behaviour to a minimum.

Once you feel more comfortable with physical activity, you can plan to join a gym to start a more advanced fitness program.

Ideally, you should:

  • Be active 150 minutes per week to notice the benefits on your body and mind
  • Focus on moderate to high-intensity activities with at least two 10-minute sessions per week
  • Include muscle and bone-strengthening exercises in your routine (particularly targeting the bones and muscles in the thighs and legs)3

Here are a few examples of recommended activities for adults: push-ups, calisthenics, skipping rope, running, sports such as basketball or tennis, fitness walking, cycling, swimming, and routine activities (such as cleaning or running errands).

Ultimately, you should remember that every little bit counts and you simply need to start somewhere—whether it is a walk or joining a sports team.

It is also important to set goals and work towards them at your own pace and within your limits. This is not a race and regardless of the results, you are already a winner.

With its many physical and mental benefits, physical activity will enrich your life and help you get stronger in body and mind.

Whether you are just getting started or resuming physical activity, working with a private trainer can positively impact your fitness journey and help you stick with your new year’s resolutions.

And wherever you are in your journey, just remember to have fun!

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