How To Be Healthier: Exercise

By Dr Murray McDonald
You don’t need to conquer the Comrades or deadlift a dump truck to improve your health. Doing ANYTHING is better than doing nothing – so pick something you like and commit to improving at it. That’s about the long and the short of it. But if I had to expand on how best to approach exercise - and I guess I have to now, you came all this way - it would be the following four factors:

1. Goals: When exercising, it’s important to have goals – it can keep you motivated, directed and committed e.g. I want to run 10km. A nice goal. But how will you get there? Goals don’t get reached without a plan. So make a plan. Then make each step in the plan an individual goal. Even better: make it a SMART goal -
  • Specific - the time, the time of day, the outfit you’ll wear… don’t leave yourself wiggle room to wiggle out of it
  • Measurable - don’t “go for a walk”... go for a “12 minute walk”
  • Achievable - don’t set the bar too low, but also not too high… there is benefit to building confidence with easier starter goals
  • Relevant - pick something that matters to you e.g. running so you can be a fitter mom/dad
  • Time-bound - what will you do this week? Month? Year? Keep yourself honest by making deadlines
2. Effort: if it is not at least a little difficult, then it is not helping. Your body needs to receive a sufficient stimulus in order to change – the work needs to be hard enough that it thinks, ”Oh dear, better be ready for next time!” The size of the effort needed increases as you get fitter e.g. in the beginning, walking arousweat, breathe hard and revel in a challengend the block is enough, but Olympic level athletes train 3-6hrs a day in order to improve their fitness. So as long as the exercise is challenging, it should improve your fitness – so break a overcome.

Consistency: Do not be the person who makes a New Year’s Resolution, gets to the gym 5 days a week in January and then gives up in February (insert excuse here: tired/busy/injured/etc). We should all be exercising for the rest of our lives (which, if we exercise, will be even longer). So take the baby steps. You have time! The success of any training program is directly correlated to how many training sessions you can string together – the longer the chain, the closer you are to your goals.

Progression: If you don’t increase the stimulus to the body, the body will stop adapting. You can’t keep running the same pace or lifting the same weights for months on end and hope to keep improving. If you’re not getting just a little stronger/faster, you’re not getting fitter. And you won’t get stronger or faster if you don’t keep pushing yourself just a little bit harder each week. So instead of running 5km in 30mins, try to run it in 29min and 30seconds. Instead of lifting 5kg weights, lift 6kg weights. Gradually increase the stimulus and you will keep making gradual progress.

And that is about it. I’m not going to go into resistance vs. cardio, yoga vs. Crossfit, or any of those other detail-based arguments. Because to be honest, that’s not the point of this article. The point is this:

Do something. Make it challenging but achievable. Be consistent. And keep increasing the challenge. That’s it.

If you have any questions, follow me on Twitter: @DrMurrayMcD

Thanks for reading.

Claremont Chiropractic Health Centre