What To Do With Exercise

Exercise is a toughie. It’s most often associated with pain (or at best discomfort), sweat, and frustration. In this episode, I’ll talk about what to do with this beast–how to approach it and become its friend.


Transcript for What To Do With Exercise

Hi and welcome to Nutritionally Speaking. I’m your host Michaela Ballmann.


Exercise Defined

Exercise can be an issue–a problem on bad days, tolerable on good days. I want to talk more about exercise today and how we can relate to it, decide when to exercise as well as what type, how often, and for how long.

First, let’s define exercise. My dictionary describes it as an “activity requiring physical effort, carried out especially to sustain or improve health and fitness”. Not bad. If I asked you, you might say “torture prescribed by my doctor, dietitian and spouse” or maybe “the way I manage stress” or “the way I start or end my day”. Exercise can mean different things to different people, but for the sake of this episode, let’s think of the typical definition of physical activity, specifically the cardiovascular exercises of jogging, biking, swimming, and the like.


Why We Don’t Like Exercise

There’s a lot of potential issues with exercise:

  • You may not have a positive history with it (i.e. you were overweight as a child and had difficulty in sports or PE, your family wasn’t active so it doesn’t feel natural to exercise)
  • You may have injuries
  • You may not enjoy it
  • It takes time
  • It is uncomfortable (sometimes even nauseating)
  • You’d rather be doing something else
  • It doesn’t necessarily cause weight loss (which most people want to see as a result of their hard work)
  • You’re conflicted because it’s supposed to be good for you, but that’s not a good enough reason sometimes

So, what do we do with exercise if we don’t enjoy it, it takes our valuable time, and it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference when it comes to our weight?


The What of Exercise

If you’re going to do anything, PLEASE do something you enjoy. Walking if often “poo-poo’d” because it doesn’t get your heart rate “high enough”, burn “enough” Calories, or cause enough pain. I think walking is awesome, and it is the best exercise for most people who have many of the aforementioned Issues with exercise.

Do something sustainable. For most people, going from a low level of activity to Cross Fit or other intense workouts is taking the turn from good intentions to fatigue, burnout, and even injuries. Choose a form of exercise that you can see yourself doing for a lifetime (or at least the next decade). You can always cross train by varying up your workouts, which is good for the body but also for the mind.

Do something social OR solitary. This really is a personal preference. I like taking group fitness classes, but I also like going for sunset walks by myself to think and reflect on the day. Some people are completely energized by exercising with friends and having an “appointment” with their friend means they’re way more likely to commit and stay committed to waking up early for that run or heading out to the basketball court.


The When of Exercise

Many people want easy, clear, direct answers to diet and exercise. The reality of the matter is that everything is individual. There are basic guidelines that I can write about on my blog or discuss on my podcast, but the secret sauce is individual nutrition and exercise counseling. This is where we learn what works for you!

When it comes to the timing of exercise, there are arguments for the benefits of exercise early in the morning or before/after eating, but I say, “Do it when you will do it.” Please don’t get up at 5am if you are NOT a morning person and think that this is something that is good for you. If it’s painful, you dread waking up every morning, and it negatively affects the rest of your day, that doesn’t sound like such a good solution. Why not experiment with morning, afternoon, and evening. For the most part, I like to start my day with exercise, but while I used to rise at 5:30, I found that this wasn’t optimum for me.


The How Often and How Long of Exercise

The frequency with which you exercise differs whether you are just starting formal exercise versus continuing or increasing your already active lifestyle. If you are just starting, it may be best to exercise for somewhere around 30 minutes every other day and gradually increase the duration and the frequency. If you have knee pain or find 30 minutes too taxing, you can do bouts of 10 or 15 minutes a couple times a day–say in the morning and in the evening. We’re finding that the benefits of exercise really add up, so don’t feel bad if 30 minutes straight isn’t for you. Remember, we want this to be something that works for you, that makes you feel good, and that does good for your body.

For others who are moderately active and want to increase their fitness level, why not increase the intensity of your exercise, add another day, or extend your workout by 15 or 30 minutes? A goal for you might be 1 hour 5 days per week.

Varying up the kind of exercise, the intensity, and the duration can keep things interesting and be a way of exploring what you can do, what pushes you, and what you enjoy.


Now Go Exercise!

I hope this podcast has encouraged you to start moving and see exercise not as a form of punishment or a “to do”, but rather an enjoyable activity that YOU get to choose. Remember that what works for you might not work for your friend and vice versa, so no comparing! Be proud of your decision to move and be proud of your body for what it does for you.


We would love to hear your comments or questions–you can go to my website at wholify.com and click on podcast to comment on this episode or listen to previous episodes. I would also really appreciate it if you would review my podcast on iTunes. Thanks again for listening and I’ll see you next time!

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There are 2 comments

  1. Tina

    Exercise is a tiring activity at first, tiring in a way that it can improve our body which eventually we don’t feel tired at a later period. Common reason why a certain individual don’t exercise, they do not have time or they are busy, but the main reason is that they are lazy to do it.

    1. Michaela Ballmann, MS RD

      Thanks for your comment Tina! Yes, when someone hasn’t exercised for a while, it definitely can be challenging to start up as the body develops endurance and strength. Even for a very active person, the first 5-10 minutes are often difficult, but there are physiologic reasons for that. Time is definitely a huge factor, though I find that people also take an all-or-nothing view that starting with walking isn’t “good enough” and if they aren’t doing an intense workout they might as well not do anything at all. There’s also the intimidation factor of going to a new gym, trying classes, and the associated fear of embarrassment.

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