Yeah, that’s right. Dietitians are humans too. We like pizza (preferably paired with beer and football), ice cream, and Netflix just like the rest of you and some of us really don’t dig exercise.
Yup, I said it. I don’t dig exercise.
I absolutely hate sweating. The feeling of being covered in slimy, sticky, salty, and smelly sweat is not my idea of enjoyable and especially not with my boyfriend watching. I hate not being able to breathe. Oxygen is cool, am I right?! I hate gyms and having people stare at you or having to stare at yourself in a mirror while awkwardly performing free weight exercises. I hate making my muscles hurt and the absolute dread that comes after a leg day when I think of walking up or down the three flights of stairs I have to take to get to my office. I’m breaking out in a sweat just thinking about it and as I said before I HATE to sweat! And probably most loathsome of all is having to open my little green eyes at an hour earlier than 7 am so that I can get a workout in before heading into the office. Don’t talk to me before I’ve had coffee, I don’t have the patience for your perky “GOOD MORNING!” in my face.
I’m willing to bet some of you out there feel the same.
Okay, okay. Now I hear you saying “Pearl, I follow you on Instagram, you’re always hiking or running.”
Oh you mean that time I was in Colorado?
Or that time Instagram first met my boyfriend?
Or that time I PR’d my first post car accident half marathon?
If you don’t follow me on Instagram you should start- @pearlonutrition
You caught me. I do love and frequently hike, run, go to yoga, and begrudgingly lift weights. I do what I need to do to keep my body healthy. To me, hiking, yoga, and occasionally running don’t feel like exercise. They feel like me spending time outside connecting to nature, myself, and friends and family.
Exercise feels like lifting weights and watching the minutes on a treadmill tick by at the pace of a constipated sloth. I’m convinced those treadmill and elliptical companies install software that makes time lapse at a slower pace when you are on one of those torture devices. And don’t even get me started on group exercise classes. If you think for even one minute you will catch me dead in a Zumba class you be this crazy…
So you need to find activities that don’t feel like exercise that you will actually enjoy or suck it up and do the minimum you need to keep your body healthy. Before we get to the WHAT, first questions first…
Why do I even need to exercise?
It is one of the many ways you take care of your body. Exercise helps to:
Reduce your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer
Help you maintain strength and bone mass in older age
Improve your ability to learn and use judgment
Reduce your risk of depression and anxiety
Improve sleep quality
Improve energy level
Improve your immune system
and most importantly… you will live longer! So your quality and quantity of life improves with exercise. Ask anyone you know who went from a sedentary life to an even slightly more active one. I imagine the first thing they will tell you is their aches and pains have decreased and many will have their own stories of how exercise has helped them. Exercise helps to push blood and fluid around your body which helps to clear out any toxins and move the nutrients that you are taking in from eating so well into your cells. I promise you that you can’t be comprehensively healthy and inactive, no matter how well you eat.
So how little exercise can I get away with and still be healthy?
The CDC recommends the following-
Children 6-17: 60 or more minutes of physical play daily, muscle strengthening activity 3 days per week as a part of the daily 60 minutes, bone strengthening activities such as jumping rope or running at least 3 days per week as a part of the daily 60 minutes.
Adults: Muscle strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms) on 2 or more days per week PLUS EITHER 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (like brisk walking) OR 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (like running) OR some combination of moderate and high intensity activity.
The CDC states on their website that for even greater benefits you may increase to EITHER 300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (like brisk walking) OR 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (like running) or some combination of moderate and high intensity activity.
English please? Okay so over the week this could look like:
|Day||Moderate Activity||Vigorous Activity||Mixed|
|Sunday||Gardening, 30 minutes||Running, 30 minutes||Swimming, 20 minutes|
|Monday||Brisk walk, 15 minutes
Weight lifting, all major muscle groups
|Weight lifting, all major muscle groups||Weight lifting, all major muscle groups|
|Tuesday||Active play with children, 30 minutes||Biking, 30 minutes||Brisk walk, 30 minutes|
|Wednesday||Brisk walk, 30 minutes
Body weight exercises, all major muscle groups
|Body weight exercises, all major muscle groups||Body weight exercises, all major muscle groups|
|Thursday||Yard work, 30 minutes||Cycling, 15 minutes||Elliptical, 20 minutes|
|Friday||Dancing, 15 minutes||NETFLIX AND CHILL||Active play with children, 30 minutes|
|Saturday||NETFLIX AND CHILL||NETFLIX AND CHILL||Brisk walk, 15 minutes|
As you can see, the best bang for your buck is to suck it up and do something high intensity for a shorter period of time. However, if the idea of sweating and not being able to breathe is too much for you then don’t you worry child. You can walk on, just make sure you’re going fast enough to get your heart rate up.
Okay I know I need to do it but I’m a couch potato. How do I start?
One step at a time. If you are a complete couch potato then get up and walk to the end of your block, do one push up, or tackle that yard project you’ve been paying the 14 year old down the street to do. I know looking at that chart can be really daunting so don’t pressure yourself to complete the whole thing this week. Starting anywhere is a good place. Any little bit you can do is a step (pun intended) in the right direction. Many of my clients have found success starting with walking. Grab a friend, spouse, or dog and head on down the road. if it is too cold find an indoor walking track or a mall. Use a pedometer, fitness watch, or step counter app to track your distance and try to beat it each week.
Weight lifting can be more tricky to get started if you have never done it before. Start with some body weight resistance training, go to a yoga or Pilates class where there is an instructor, hire a trainer, or recruit a friend that can teach you. You definitely don’t want to hurt yourself so having some instruction when you first start is helpful.
I need help finding activities.
If you already have some activity in your life- great! Keep building on what is already there. Do you walk for 15 minutes a few times per week? See if you can push it to 25. Are you walking daily and want to step up the intensity? Try adding 30 seconds of jogging every couple minutes or try a trail hike with a few more hills. Hate weight lifting? Try a body resistance activity like yoga or Pilates or a group class like crossfit, adult gymnastic, or circuit training. Need more accountability? Hire a trainer or join a group. This could be a class based out of your gym or a meet up group. Make some friends and tell them to poke at you to get you there.
Hate anything that looks like exercise? Find some 3 year old kids (I recommend ones you know, going to a park and picking up strangers would likely be frowned upon) and do whatever they want to do for an hour. Clean your house- fast! Go for a walk or bike ride with a friend. Hate everything I’ve suggested and me for telling you you need to exercise? Go to a boxing class.
Ask friends what activities they like to do and join them to make it less indimidating. TRY SOMETHING NEW- rock climbing, dancing, martial arts, active video games like Just Dance, YouTube videos, parkour, rec league sports like volleyball, dodgeball, kickball, softball, lacrosse, active commute like walking or biking to work, skateboarding, swimming, kayaking, jumping on a trampoline (you can buy mini ones for inside your house), fencing, rollerblading, ice skating, tennis, stand up paddle board, cartwheel competitions or capture the flag.
If you hate every activity you’ve ever done you’re going to have to keep working at it until you find something that fits. Exercise makes your body feel good so I promise there is something out there that you will walk away from wanting try again.
What if I have an eating disorder and my exercise has been limited?
You my friend are a unique little snowflake. These exercise guidelines do not apply to you right now. Your body is working so hard to repair all the damage the eating disorder has inflicted that it needs a break from activity to put energy and nutrients into making your body whole again. Talk with your medical doctor, registered dietitian, and therapist to determine an activity level that is appropriate for your specific physical, mental, and emotional needs. Exercise is a healthy behavior and something I’m sure your treatment team would like you to be able to get back to, just in a healthy manor. Remember, this is only temporary. You will get there someday.
You crazy, Pearl. I can’t go a day without exercising.
I know not everyone out there struggles with under-exercising. Lucky for you my Nutrition Genius Radio co-host and dietitian friend Laura has some great advice on how to get your rest day on for those of you struggling with exercising too much.
I get it. I’m going to do it!
Exercise is one of the many puzzle pieces important for maintaining your overall health and it shouldn’t be a punishment. Start where you are at, work to incorporate a sustainable level of activity for you, and find activities you enjoy and will keep doing for life.