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A Lazy Girl’s Simple Guide to Exercise

A Lazy Girl’s Simple Guide to ExerciseThis is a guest post by Dr. Tracy Papa.

We all know we should be exercising, right? We all know that exercise improves high blood pressure and diabetes, boosts energy, and lifts our mood. So if we all know this, why is it that most of us do not have a regular exercise habit? As a physician, here are some of the reasons I hear most often from my patients:

  • I don’t have time to exercise.
  • I’m too tired.
  • I can’t afford gear.

On a personal level, here is what I find frustrating about exercise — I read articles all the time that tell me that this new exercise is better than whatever I’m currently doing. For instance, I was on board with high-intensity interval training (HIIT) when I read about Tabata training. According to the cool kids, Tabata was soooo much more effective than just HIIT. And I was having fun with Zumba when I heard about hip-hop and barre and Bollywood dancing classes. And what about TRX training, suspending yourself with straps? Kettlebells? Aero bars? Shake-weights, anyone?

Enough already! Quit trying to keep up with the sexiest new exercise trends, and just land on a routine that you can live with. One that’s simple so that you have no excuse not to do it every day (although I still don’t manage to do it every day). Here are the answers to the most frequent questions about exercise, my fellow time-crunched friend.

What kind of exercise should I be doing?

It doesn’t matter. If there is a form of exercise that you enjoy (or that you maybe just don’t loathe), do that. The more important priority is to be doing something nearly every day. It doesn’t always have to be the same something. You can ride a stationary bike while watching “Fixer Upper” or a TED talk. Take a brisk walk with the kids or the dog. Walk on a treadmill and listen to a podcast. Stressed out today? Go to a yoga class and zone out while you stretch, strengthen, and breathe. Most studios sell multi-class passes, so you can drop in when you want to.

How much time should I spend?

It doesn’t matter. The truth is, any exercise is better than none. Some people are more comfortable with a slower, steady pace for 40-60 minutes. If you are impatient like me, high-intensity intervals make sense — I work hard, but I don’t have to do it for as long. There are tons of HIIT workouts on Pinterest, and they combine cardio with strength training. Scroll through and choose some to try. Personally, I skip past any workouts that involve a lot of Burpees. Don’t know what a Russian twist is? Google it. You may alternate HIIT workout days with easier workouts. But whatever you do, pour it out every time. Go home tired.

Should I exercise in a group? By myself? At a gym? On a team?

It doesn’t matter. You know what kind of person you are. If you like the camaraderie (and the accountability) of a team, look for a running group or a basketball/soccer/softball league in your area. Or try what I did: I signed up for a cycling event with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. I joined a cycling team and trained for a 100-mile bike ride. And completed it, I’m proud to say. I loved having an event to train for, a team to show up for, and a goal to achieve that helped both me and a great cause. If you’re not much for teams but like the idea of a goal to stretch for, there are plenty of ways to train for individual events. Do some 5K walks in your area and try to beat your personal best time with each race. The question of where to work out is also an individual decision. I like the gym because there is nothing to do there except exercise. When I’m at home, I tend to get distracted by laundry, clutter, and family needs. If the expense or the inconvenience of a trip to the gym is not your thing, exercise at home or in a local park.

That’s about as simple as it gets. You’re overthinking this. You don’t need special clothes or equipment. If all you have is a few minutes, dance it out your favorite song. Do more if you have more time or energy on any given day. The secret is getting some activity in every day. Even a little bit, in the way that best suits your abilities, budget, and interests. And see how much those little sessions add up to big changes!

Tracy PapaTracy Papa is a board-certified Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist (perinatologist) in Fort Worth, Texas. She blogs about pregnancy issues of all kinds on her website, DrTracyPapa.com.

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