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Getting into an Active Mindset

A quick reminder that before you start any new physical activity, it’s essential that you have a physical examination and get clearance from your doctor. This is critically important and must be taken seriously.

Along with a physical check-up, you also want to do a mental check-up in order to get into an active mindset. The first shift you might need to make is with the language you’re using. If the word “exercise” has negative associations for you, simply replace it with “physical activity,” “healthy movement” or another term of your choice.

You might also need to let go of some false beliefs or other forms of distorted thinking about exercise, such as all-or-nothing thinking (“I missed my walk today, so I might as well forget about doing anything else”), disqualifying the positive (“I was late and only did half the yoga class – that doesn’t count”) and should statements (“I should be able to walk as fast as her”).

Aside from the amazing benefits that we’ll discuss more next week, healthy movement can also protect you from the impact of a sedentary lifestyle. An October 2012 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, as reported in the New York Times, found some serious health risks of being sedentary, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and premature death.

So next, update your expectations of what counts as “real” physical activity. I like to remind my clients that when it comes to healthy movement, something is something. You don’t need to jog, lift weights or do anything you don’t want to do, especially in the beginning.

Your goal is to do less nothing (sedentary, passive activities like working at the computer or watching television) and more something (active tasks that get you moving around).

The next thing to get clear in your mind is: Are you ready to start an activity program? If not, you’ll be on an uphill journey the whole way. One way to think of it is to consider where you are in the five stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance.

If you’re not in the action stage yet – be honest – then ask yourself what you need in order to get there. Maybe it’s professional help, like a therapist, life coach or personal trainer. Maybe it’s personal help like a healthy movement buddy.

Once you’re in action, staying motivated can sometimes be even trickier. We’ll talk more about specific activities next week, but for now I’ll just tell you that I have to mix things up in order to stay motivated, e.g., yoga and walking my dog. I know I would burn out from doing just one thing.

Consider now what might derail your efforts and plan ahead for how to handle those things. For example, if a rainy day ruins your plans for a walk, maybe you could have a playlist or CD handy of some songs you like to dance to.

It’s just like if you relapse with your food behaviors – if you miss a day, or even a week, just pick up and get back on track when you can.

Even if you’ve been told not to exercise for a period of time, you can include “rest” in this phase of your activity plan, and approach it with the same discipline as any other goal. You will still be in the mindset of carrying out your physical treatment plan.

Next week, we’ll talk more about specific activity ideas – what to do and not to do.