Getting Started With Exercise

by Derek Long

Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher and poet said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”  And, the fact that you really have no idea just how far that is.  I add that last part. 

What I do know is that life is not about the destination, it’s about the journey.  So I figured the first step along this path of fitness and healthy living should be finding out what you need to know about getting started with exercise. 

That led me to Becca Bataglini, Director of Lifetime Fitness and Physical Activity Programs at UNC Chapel Hill,  “The first important thing to remember is that anybody can start exercising. Obviously you’re not going to get fit until you actually get up and start moving.  So anybody can do it, doesn’t matter what stage in life they’re at, doesn’t have to be a young person, even grand parents, great grandparents they are equally able and capable of exercising, just in different ways. 

The general recommendation is to get 30 minutes of exercise a day. 

But the question is, what constitutes exercise?  “The basics that people need to know,” says Battaglini, “is that you should have some sort of a cardiovascular component to your exercise.  You should have strength training or resistance training, and the other thing is that you should add some flexibility in.  None of those things need a gym membership and in fact all of those can be done in your own home.” 

You don’t have to make it complicated.  In fact it’s best if you start small.  Begin with  some simple changes in behavior says Battaglini, “Instead of sitting there they can do stand up and sit down, ten times while they’re watching television.  They can a get down on the floor and do a couple basic sit-ups, or walk up and down the stair during a commercial break.   And I think that’s the key is to not start and try and win a marathon right on your first day you know you’ve got to build in to it.”  You need to remember that getting into an exercise routine is a process, but adds Battaglini,   “it’s a process that’s worth trying for because exercise is truly medicine.”

But regular exercise doesn’t have to feel like you’re taking medicine, in fact, you want it to be something you look forward to doing.  OK, maybe that’s a stretch, I mean it is called a workout, but the key to exercise becoming a regular part of your lifestyle is to find activities that you enjoy and are easy to work into your daily routine.   Well intentioned New Years’ resolutions are great, however, says  Battaglini, “if paying for an expensive gym membership doesn’t work with your budget, doesn’t work with your schedule to get there, it’s obviously not going to fit into your life.  If grabbing your neighbor and saying let’s go for a walk is motivation to get out there and do something, then that might fit better into your life. 

The challenge is to find ways to integrate exercise into our busy schedules.  Instead of standing or sitting on the sidelines while your kids are at sports practice take a walk or go for a run.  “We can find time in the business of our life.” Say Battaglini.

If that seems too difficult then consider this.  “My motivation,” says Battaglini, “is to be healthy enough for my children and to just try to model positive behavior for them, and I think that is probably a very important gift I can give my children.”

So what does it take to get started with exercise?  According to Battaglini it’s a simple matter of, “you just got a put one foot in front of the other and just get going.”

I’m sure Lao Tzu wouldn’t argue with that.


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