Exercise looks different for everyone: 

This time of year, a lot of people have made New Year’s resolutions to get in shape. Keep in mind that as you set off to achieve your new goal to be fit, we are all different and at different stages in our lives. So, being fit looks different for everyone. All our bodies respond differently to exercise and our exercise needs, health conditions and physical abilities are different.

Many people think immediately that to get fit they need to “hit the gym”. Although this can be a good place to go for exercise, we need to remember that if we have not been exercising for a while that we need to start out slowly. As a dietitian, I tell my patients repeatedly, “Just go and buy a par of good walking or running shoes and get out on the road and walk.” This is not going to break the bank. The goal to hit the gym can be a bit more daunting for some, especially if you have not exercised for a very long time. Build up exercising slowly, adding new exercises, intensity and length time exercising according to your age and abilities.

All too often, we make goals that are not realistic. When we do this, we find ourselves failing. It is important to make realistic goals or as we like to call them SMART goals.

What does this mean?  “S” stands for specific, “M” is for measurable, “A” is for attainable, “R” is for relevant, and “T” is for time bound. For example, I am not going to make a broad goal such as, I am going to exercise a lot and get fit. That broad goal has none of these elements. A better example for a goal would be, I am going to start going out for 30 minutes and walk three days a week for one month. This one is specific that I am going to walk for 30 minutes and “measure” that I am walking for 30 minutes, three days a week. This is definitely attainable provided that I have no physical limitations and that it is not unrealistic. This is relevant goal which will get me started on an exercise routine. Additionally, I am doing it for one month and then I will re-evaluate and then set a new short-term goal.

If we examine why someone would want to exercise, we will find multiple reasons and those reasons will vary depending upon one’s age, health status and personal goals. Finding your own “why” is important in all goal setting. Why are we trying to make exercise a part of our life? Our why needs to be inspiring enough to keep us motivated. Remember that exercise can help with health concerns, give us energy, help us sleep. It can also help with our self-esteem. Exercise will, over time, give us longevity and help us avoid future health problems.

As a dietitian, I tell my patients one thing, no matter what you choose to do, choose to do something. The second thing is to be realistic, don’t be hard on yourself if you are not perfect. Do the best you can and remain positive. All new movement which is more than you were doing before, constitutes a success. Every journey starts with the first step! Make your exercise journey a success by setting smart goals.