Planning is essential to success

To ensure we achieve the benefits of a regular physical activity program we must make our exercise session a not-negotiable priority each day. ‘Slow exercise’ is about being open to the many opportunities we have, every day, to accumulate a range of physical activities that will make a real difference to our health. The average yearly weight gain for adults is equivalent to walking an extra half a km every day or 4 km/week. It doesn’t seem much, but it all adds up over a lifetime to better health. The most exciting thing is that there are a multitude of activity options to try. The only barrier to our success is the willingness to take responsibility for our activity levels.

Awareness and understanding exercise

The first step of slow exercise is awareness and understanding.  It is important that we determine any barriers to us undertaking a regular exercise program. Based on your health needs, examine the type and amount of physical activity you need and consider the strategies that will ensure your regular participation.  Lack of time, energy or motivation, are the most common barriers to regular participation in an exercise program, but as we age, chronic injury, joint pain and poor health may also be important. All of these barriers can be overcome by clearly identifying your exercise and health priorities, and by seeking professional advice as required.

For those with health problems and those over 45, it is wise to obtain a ‘medical clearance’ before undertaking any exercise program. This usually involves a comprehensive medical history and health screen. This appointment can also help to can also target the right exercise for your particular requirements and mindful of your particular limitations. A health and musculoskeletal assessment by an accredited exercise physiologist or health professional can ensure that the optimal benefits are achieved for each individual with a minimum risk of injury or other adverse consequences.  Individuals with chronic disease may also be eligible for an Enhanced Primary Care (EPC) Plan, which provides a referral to a relevant allied health professional, who can assist with specific health goals. The EPC Plan, which is drawn up by a GP enables you to access a Medicare Rebate for up to five appointments per year for services such as exercise physiology, physiotherapy, dietetics, osteopathy and chiropractic.

Making choices that are sustainable for the Long-term

Exercise is a good habit we need to establish for our lifetime. It takes a few months to develop habits. But with persistence, we can make exercise something we do routinely, and something we ‘miss’, when we don’t get enough. Exercise itself can become addictive!

There are so many options. Structured exercise programs are widely available, but we can also structure exercise into our regular daily commitments, such as to walk or cycle to work, or to take the kids to school and then jog back. It all adds up in the long term. Small incremental steps are much easier to sustain. Avoid making multiple lifestyle changes all at once, as this may lead to increased levels of stress, frustration and failure.  As your fitness improves begin introducing different types of exercise in a series of stages. For example, this may mean getting a walking program well underway, before starting strength training.

Enjoy Variety

Exercise programs should not be exclusive and one program does not suit everyone. A balanced multi-component exercise program works best.

Slow exercise is not exclusive. There is no one magic exercise program or exercise machine that is the answer or ‘works in only three weeks’. Different forms of exercise training produce specific fitness and health outcomes. The best results come from a balanced exercise program, which incorporates a mix of resistance, aerobic and stretching programs to ensure that you gain the many available benefits. For example, aerobic exercise will adapt the cardiorespiratory system, while resistance training will increase muscle strength.

Last Reviewed 02/Mar/2014

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Dr Merlin Thomas

Professor Merlin Thomas is Professor of Medicine at Melbourne’s Monash University, based in the Department of Diabetes. He is both a physician and a scientist. Merlin has a broader interest in all aspects of preventive medicine and ageing. He has published over 270 articles in many of the worlds’ leading medical journals

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