If you know you're not very fit – and some days you only walk from home to your car to your desk and back – then exercise advice can feel overwhelming.
After all, most of the books and blogs and podcasts about exercise are produced by keep-fit types. Thin, muscular, glowing with good health...
...and kinda annoying.
I know they don't mean to be. They're just sharing what they know and love. But the problem is, if you're a coach potato, it's easy to feel judged. And, it's easy to give up before you've even begun. You don't want to spend hours every week in the gym. You don't want a body like a magazine cover model.
You just want to feel comfortable in your own skin. You want to be able to run for the bus, or walk up stairs without getting breathless. You want to be a bit healthier, and a bit more energetic.
The truth is, you don't need to be a health nut and go all-out in exercising fanatically. It doesn't take much to go from couch potato to reasonable fitness. Here's how:
Start Really Small
The worst thing you can do when starting out is to get over ambitious. You're either going to injure yourself, or get exhausted and give up.
Even a tiny amount of exercise is vastly better than none. You might not be able to jog for half an hour – but perhaps you can run on the spot for five minutes. The thought of going to the gym might be enough to put you off "exercise" – but you could face taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
And yes, these little steps might not get you up to recommended exercise levels (around 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five times a week). But they're a start – and that's what matters.
Try Walking: Easy, Free, Painless
One of the best forms of exercise is incredibly simple: walking.
It's free. It's easy – you don't need any special kit or equipment, just comfortable clothes and shoes. If you have joint problems, you'll need to be careful and perhaps get medical advice – but for most of us, walking is painless.
Can you fit more walking into this week? How about setting a goal to walk for just fifteen minutes each day?
Make Your Daily Routine Work for You
You probably don't have a very active job. Most of us sit at a desk all day at work, and sit on a couch or at a computer when we get home in the evenings. And we tend to drive everywhere, too.
If you're struggling to find the time to exercise, see what activity you can fit into your day. You might be able to cycle to work, or walk part of the distance. Perhaps you can get out of the office for a walk at lunch time, instead of staying at your desk.
Most of us don't want to spend hours each day in the gym. But exercise doesn't have to take up a huge chunk of time. By fitting activity into your day, it becomes almost automatic – rather than something which takes a ton of will-power.
Don't Treat Exercise as a Chore
Some exercise advice focuses on constantly being better, leaner, meaner, relentlessly self-disciplined and pushing yourself harder and harder. And that can be a real turn-off, especially when you're just starting out.
Exercise isn't a job or a chore. It's perfectly OK to enjoy it! If you don't like a particular form of exercise, don't do it; I hate jogging, for instance. Find something which you like, and look for ways to make it even more enjoyable ... like buying headphones so you can listen to your own music in the gym, or playing a game with a friend instead of working out alone.
It's Never Too Late
Even if you've been unfit for years or decades, even if you've already got health problems due to your lack of fitness, it is never too late to change things. Of course, consult your doctor if you know that exercise could be problematic for you – but don't assume that there's nothing you can do.
Don't be put off by exercise nuts. It's perfectly possible to be fit, healthy and happy without spending hours working out. Take small steps. Get started today and, you never know, you might just find you enjoy it.