Getting Back to Exercising After a Lull

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • I have a confession to make. I dropped off the exercise wagon in mid-February. The reason is that my 80-plus-year-old father, who lives with me, fell multiple times over a four-week period. Fortunately, he didn’t break anything but he did lose confidence in his physical abilities. His wariness rubbed off on me, making me feel like I really couldn’t leave the house for anything except for shopping for groceries or making an occasional run for a takeout meal.

    Dad got a referral for physical therapy that made him go to a series of 45-minute sessions during late March and early April. While he was in those sessions, I’d catch up in running errands. Eventually, I started using those times to walk. And now that Dad’s doing much better, it’s much easier to get out of the house.

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    So now I’m trying to get back into an exercise routine because being active is really important to one’s health. “Physical activity is anything that makes the body move and burn calories such as climbing stairs or doing housework. Any increase in physical activity can benefit your health because it decreases the amount of time that you are sedentary,” write Lauren Healey Mellett and Gisele Bousquet of the Brigham and Women’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at Brigham and Women’s/Mass General Health Care Center.

    I have an able partner in my Schnauzer-mix, Noel, who does her best to get me out of the house in the mornings. (We try to establish a routine of walking then because it’s cooler – which is important since I live in part of the country that experiences blazing summer heat.)

    And I’ve added another prompter to help me get moving – an electronic bracelet that plugs into an app on my smart phone. This bracelet, which was a birthday present to myself, measures how active I am daily and also reminds me to move when I’m inactive for a certain period of time (which is an important feature since I tend to sit while I write for most of the day.) The data I’ve gotten has been interesting. For instance, when I first started using the device, I thought I’d see what a “typical” day of activity was like when I didn’t leave home. I found that I walked around 3,000 steps a day on these days – far less than the 10,000 daily steps recommended by experts.

    I’ve also found that if I walk Noel a couple of miles each morning, the count adds up more quickly and I can get around 10,000 steps by getting up and walking around (or marching in place) during commercial breaks while Dad and I watch television in the evening.

    So what steps should you take if you’re like me and need to get more activity after a layoff – or need to start being active for the first time in your life? Here are some suggestions, courtesy of Mellett and Bousquet:

    • Talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program in order to make sure that what you’re planning is safe for you.
    • Select an activity that you enjoy because you’re more likely to continue with it.
    • Wear the right clothes and shoes for your activity.
    • Exercise DVDs and active video games are great for helping you exercise at home.
    • Recruit someone to be your exercise buddy.
    • Put exercise no your daily calendar so it’s basically an appointment.
    • Keep an exercise log so you can follow your progress.
    • Find ways to get more exercise in your day, including walking during lunch, taking the stairs and parking as far away as you can from store entrances.
    • Make sure you drink lots of water, especially if you sweat a lot, while exercising.
    • If you’ve been sick, take a break from exercising so that your body can fully recover.

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  • Mellett, L. H. & Bousquet, G. (2013). Heart-healthy exercise. Circulation.

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Published On: May 02, 2013