Having a Hard Time Getting Active? Try a Pedometer

Sometimes the idea of getting “active” is a bit overwhelming  What comes to mind? For me, its usually running shoes. And honestly, I hate running. Or at least, I don’t enjoy it. So I still battle that subconscious blech when I think about “getting active.”

But let’s say it’s more than that. Let’s say you’ve never been an active person and it’s honestly difficult to walk consistently for more than ten minutes. You’re not alone.

When I worked at Jenny Craig, I encountered this situation with my clients frequently, whether due to age, medical conditions, or obesity  It’s something a lot of people out there have a hard time overcoming.

For someone who can walk half an hour without breaking a sweat…well, they can’t relate, so it’s difficult to understand. And they may give you the attitude of just do it, as if that’s the solution.

Well, to some extent, it is. You do need to make up your mind to start and get a little more active than you are currently. But where to start? That’s usually the scary part.

Fear not, reader. For anyone and everyone, the solution is…start where you are now, and slowly add more. Don’t jump right in to the tough stuff, even though you probably want to. If you go too fast, you’ll hurt yourself, and then you’ll be even further back from where you started.

If, once upon a time, you were in better shape, and starting from the beginning is really frustrating, I’m sorry. I am. I’ve been there too, and it’s difficult, but don’t give up. Get up!

Just go slow.

Now, if you’re one of those people who has never been active and wants to get started, here’s my suggestion: get a pedometer.

A pedometer is a gadget that tracks the steps you take throughout the day.

There are less expensive pedometers that simply track your steps and can give you a few estimates, such as calorie burn or distance traveled. Gaiam’s $10 Pedometer includes an audio CD to walk along with.

Or, you can use an app on a fancy-dancy smartphone.

You can also go the more diet extremist route and get an armband like mine from BodyMedia, which does tell you your steps, as well as a whole lot of other information (calorie burn, activity level, activity minutes, sleep time, etc) with over 90% accuracy (so…these aren’t estimates…and that’s refreshing). 

I’ve also seen a Pocket Pedometer by Omron that you hook up to your computer to log your pedometer’s history…kind of neat if you want to track your progress but don’t want something as intense as the armband.

No matter how you go about getting a pedometer, start by wearing it consistently for an entire week and write down your steps at the end of the night. After 7 days, average the weeks steps. Then, set a goal for yourself for the next week. For example, if you averaged 2500 steps a day, try for 250 steps more. That’s 2750 steps a day, on average.

The average part is key, because some days will just be more active than others. And you don’t want to beat yourself up when you have a day where you’re stuck at a desk, or in a chair. Just do more steps the next day, and it’ll all average out.

How do you get more steps? You’ve probably heard people say you should park further away in the parking lot, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Those are good solutions, but they’re also situational. Try this: whenever you can think about it, get a couple of steps in. During commercial breaks, march in front of your TV. While you’re cleaning dishes, march in place. Turn some music on and dance. Just move with your feet.

Once you hit your new goal, set another. And the next week, another, and so on. You’ll be surprised how soon you’ll be doubling the amount of steps you can take in a day. The more steps you take, the more calories you burn.

I’ve seen this method dramatically increase the activity of a number of clients who never thought they could walk for exercise. Some of them even started running. It’s just a matter of being patient with your body, and your mind.

Now don’t you just want to get up and move? Go for it. Every step is a step closer to where you want to be.

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