As humans, we’re built to move around, but an inactive lifestyle has become the norm for many people. The most activity some people might find themselves doing on a daily basis is walking from their home to their car — and then their car to the office. Those who work a desk job are sat down for eight hours of the day, before driving home and often sitting down again for the rest of the evening. Even with people who were active in their youth, a few years of this and they’ll find their fitness levels pretty much at zero.
If you’re training a client or helping a friend or family member start their health journey then this can be the reality. It’s a horrible situation for them to be in as it can leave them feeling trapped in their own body. Just about anything that involves physical activity feels really tiring and becomes a chore, and it can be really embarrassing too when they’re no longer able to keep up with their loved ones. Starting an exercise regime right from the beginning when your fitness levels are pretty much at zero can feel hugely daunting, but it’s genuinely one of the best things you’ll do for both your health and happiness — and helping someone to get there is really rewarding. Over time, their energy levels will return and they can get back to leading an active lifestyle and enjoy the things they once did. Here’s how you can go about it.
Speak to a doctor
First things first, if the person you’re working with has not been active in a long time then it’s no bad thing for them to speak to their doctor. If they have any current health conditions they will be able to let you know what their limitations are and what they need to avoid. Otherwise, they can check their heart and blood pressure and make sure they’re able to do all of the activities you plan on doing with them. For example, if they have high blood pressure thy might be advised not to lift heavy weights as research shows it can make it worse. The doctor can take their weight, measure BMI and even run blood tests to check where they’re at at the beginning of their journey. This is useful as in a few months you can follow up and see how much they’ve improved.
Build up a foundation level of fitness
Your next step is to build up a foundation level of fitness. When you’re first starting out, you’re not going to be able to jump on the treadmill and start sprinting or running long distances. After years of low levels of activity, the body needs to get used to working out again. So start small and build your way up. You could begin with walking, and over the month increase your intensity and the length of your walks with them. You could get onto the stationary bike and start pedaling together, begin at the lowest intensity and let them do as much as they can- you can increase the resistance over time as you go. It can take a little while of doing this before they will start feeling a difference but stick with it. Aim to exercise three or four times a week, and after around six weeks you’ll notice they can do so much more. Once they have that basic fitness level they can start trying new things and pushing them to feel the burn.
Try lots of different activities
Once you’ve reached the stage where the person you’re working with is no longer puffing and panting at the smallest bit of activity, you can start experimenting and trying different things. Go to the gym and try out the different equipment from the cross-trainer to the rower to the arm bike. Sign them up to a beginners fitness class, or a team sport designed for those that are just getting back into exercise. The thing about exercising is it shouldn’t feel like a punishment, if they want to keep it up long term then it needs to be fun and rewarding. They might not enjoy everything you recommend, but keep an open mind as you never know. Perhaps they’ll surprise themselves and have a great time at a martial arts group, or find that swimming is their thing? They might love the Zumba class you did together or find that biking to work and back every day makes them feel great. Just be aware of the dangers, especially if you’re exercising outside. Cycling on the road, for example, can be dangerous; if you’re hurt you’ll need personal injury lawyers who will vigorously represent you. Make sure they have all of the necessary equipment for the activity you plan on doing.
Make it a habit
Once you’ve found a few activities that appeal to the client or loved one you’re helping, fit them into their schedule. Ideally, mix it up a bit so you’re keeping it interesting, instead of hitting the gym four times a week they could go once then make one workout a pool swim, another a class or sport and another a solo activity like hiking or biking. Once they get into this routine it’s easier to stick with and fit the rest of their life around.