Overweight and leading a sedentary lifestyle? Let me help with tailored fitness advice.
This week we’re providing advice for ‘Jason,’ one of our real readers. Susan Bowerman introduced Jason’s story on Monday and provided practical solutions to help him overcome his nutritional challenges and get his weight loss plan back on the right track. Today, I have the pleasure of providing some suggestions to help Jason incorporate more activity into his daily routine.
I’m convinced that many of you will relate to Jason’s story, because our modern lifestyle can be hard work. As a busy working mom of four, I can personally relate to Jason’s time challenges.
A 6am start to the day with responsibility for getting his four youngest children ready for school makes it difficult to schedule an early morning workout.
Setting the alarm 30 minutes earlier is not practical in Jason’s life, so I suggest that he finds ways to sneak a few exercise moves into his morning routine. Simply stretching as soon he gets out of bed or performing squats and calf-raises while making coffee or preparing breakfast will add extra activity to his day.
It may not seem like much but these micro-workouts are a perfect way to start the day with a positive, active mind-set. Even simple movements can promote the release of endorphins that will increase energy levels. And all the two-minute bouts of exercise will add up throughout the week. Deciding “every second counts” is the key.
Jason feels he has something to do at every minute of the day. He’s busy at work, he’s busy at home and Jason hasn’t really carved out any ‘me’ time.
Jason hasn’t prioritized health and fitness, but he knows he should and that adds to the pressure he is feeling. In a perfect world, Jason would be completing at least three cardio workouts and two strength workouts each week. But right now, Jason just needs to start moving again.
Many of my suggestions are aimed at accumulating activity minutes that will help Jason lose weight and start to feel fit. I’d like Jason to also try and add one structured workout to his week. This workout time should be for Jason to really start to build confidence in his fitness. Jason would benefit from a 60-minute workout, and if he rationalizes it as time when he can de-stress and prioritize his health then he should be able to make it a regular part of his schedule.
Speaking with Jason, he feels this could be the biggest obstacle, as he already has so many commitments. But I know that after each session Jason will have more energy and feel more positive. Over time the sessions will improve his fitness exponentially, and although carving out this time feels like a luxury now, I hope that he’ll realize it’s a necessity.
Office work usually requires that we sit for long hours – this is a fact of life for many people. Unfortunately, a sedentary lifestyle often leads to steady weight gain as people become less and less active over time.
Jason needs to focus on his posture and engage his core muscles throughout the day. This means he needs to be mindful of how he is sitting, and I suggested a sticky note on the corner of his monitor could be all the prompting he needs. Occasionally performing some stretches in his chair may also help to keep his mind focused on activity.
The way Jason’s office is set up means that he can also go over and speak with colleagues about projects as an alternative to emailing or phoning. This is a good way to build up relationships. And each time Jason gets up to visit a colleague’s desk, he will add some extra movement to his day. He could also set a reminder every hour or so to get a fresh glass of water—he’ll benefit from walking to the water cooler and staying hydrated.
The demands of Jason’s job have built up and now he feels time-crunched at every moment.
If Jason is scrambling to keep on top of things, then maybe he needs to find a way to work smarter. This isn’t suitable for everyone, but taking 10 minutes to walk around the block may give him time to consider a project from a different angle and find a smarter way to deliver results.
Jason should try to accumulate activity minutes throughout the day. Walking up the stairs, or taking a lunchtime stroll with a colleague, will provide exercise and also relief from day-to-day pressure buildup.
With a gym at the office, Jason needs to re-prioritize activity and make time for a 30-minute workout three times a week. This is a big jump from Jason’s current activity level, but Jason needs to prioritize his health equally with his work. After discussing this, Jason agreed to chat with his supervisor to see if he can take a late afternoon workout break and make up the time later. This is a great solution, as Jason often stays late at the office to avoid rush hour traffic.
Scheduling workout time as recurring calendar appointments means that Jason may start to see workouts as an important part of his day. The increased energy and fresh outlook that Jason will have after each workout may even make him feel more productive and better able to meet the demands of his job.
Feeling trapped on a slow-moving freeway for four hours every day elevates Jason’s stress levels. High levels of stress have been linked to increased levels of the hormone cortisol and can promote weight gain. Cortisol is especially linked to weight gain in the mid-section. Increased weight tends to cause additional stress creating a cycle that feels impossible to break.
Unfortunately, I can’t do anything about the traffic problem, but I believe that Jason should try to incorporate controlled breathing exercises into his commute. Focusing on letting go of some of the stresses that have mounted up during the day or planning out his day on the morning drive to work could help him feel more in control.
Conscious relaxation during the drive, combined with listening to soothing music or an audio book may help to alleviate some of the stress associated with his busy routine.
Late nights and early mornings are a regular part of Jason’s daily routine.
I recommend that Jason should ask members of his family to accompany him on a stroll in the evening. Jason often arrives home at around 9pm and he misses out on family time, but aiming to arrive home 30 minutes earlier and making time for a stroll will help him connect with his family, while also clocking up exercise minutes. This extra evening activity may also help Jason unwind and improve his sleep.
Jason also needs to set a strict bedtime – these aren’t just for children! Like many people, Jason finds himself pottering and doing chores late into the night. With a pre-planned ‘bed time’ Jason may be able to add an extra hour or two of rest every night. It will take a while for Jason to get used to a strict bedtime, but his body will adjust and the extra sleep may make it easier for him to get up each day.
After our discussion, Jason felt that everything I had suggested seemed possible but that the overall plan was overwhelming. I suggested that he takes each piece of advice on its own. To start with, he needs to work to add activity minutes every day. To help track this, Jason may find a pedometer helps keep him focused. Then, as Jason’s confidence grows, I also think he’ll find a fitness journal useful.
A slow and steady approach will help Jason build momentum and find even more ways to add activity minutes to his existing schedule. This is preferable to Jason jumping into a detailed and demanding workout schedule, as a heavy-handed approach may result in Jason losing interest and falling back to old habits quickly.
Many people find that fitness gradually becomes less of a priority as day-to-day responsibility grows, and they suddenly realize they are unfit. That doesn’t have to mean you’ll never be fit again! By starting to add more movement to your day and building back up gradually, you should start to see results. Look for signs that you are getting fitter, like climbing stairs without losing your breath or feeling more energetic each day. Recognizing these smaller milestones may be all the incentive you need to stay on track and start making a bigger commitment to fitness.
I’m confident that Jason can apply this advice, and I’ll be checking in with him periodically to see how he’s getting on.