Executive Health: Starting from scratch

We all know that physical exercise needs to be lifelong habit. However, for one reason or another, life might get in the way – an accident or medical condition, family or work commitments, or simply gradual slip into sedentary lifestyle.
For those who have not exercised for significant amount of time, or are returning to exercise after serious illness or an injury, planned and considered approach is needed. The resulting discomfort and soreness from working too hard too soon is unlikely to leave anyone itching to come back for more and could even pose health risk.
For people who have been sedentary or ill, it’s important to seek advice from GP or specialist before starting any programme or new exercise regime. They will be able to check on any health issues that may pose risk factor, and recommend safe plan of action. The following hints are useful for workplaces and for individuals who are ready to get moving – slowly of course.

For many people, the purchase of exercise equipment or gym membership is way of showing commitment to their exercise goal. But as quick visit to Trade Me will prove, it can take trial and error to find out what regime or exercise suits best.
It’s really important to consider whether your chosen activity is convenient, fits your lifestyle and budget, and rather crucially, is one you want to get out of bed and do.
Borrowing or hiring equipment and free trials are all options to avoid this potentially expensive process of discovery. In the workplace, “taster” sessions are good way to gauge general enthusiasm for an activity and its practicality.

“No pain no gain” seems to be particularly sticky and unhelpful exercise myth. Pain, nausea, dizziness and other symptoms are signals it’s time to stop and seek medical advice.
To achieve health benefits, physical activity doesn’t need to involve copious sweating, being shouted at by personal trainer, or expensive equipment. The Government’s recommended minimum for adult physical activity is 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days (moderate being level where you can still carry on conversation) with some vigorous (puffing hard) activity thrown in if you are looking to improve your health.
Moderate intensity activities like walking or yoga can easily fit into lunchtime – and won’t result in lengthy shower queue afterwards.

Depending on what you want to do, starting off with session or two with qualified instructor or trainer can help you to get the most out of your effort and avoid injury. They can be honest and objective about what will work for you and what to expect, can tailor the exercises to your specific needs, and ensure you are not aggravating muscles or joints.
Seeking advice on what works – and what doesn’t – is also hugely worthwhile for any workplace wanting to get the most out of an inhouse or sponsored fitness activity. Corporate wellness providers can assess your team’s requirements and advise on what initiatives might be of most benefit.

Exercise shouldn’t be slog or an inconvenience. If you’re going to make something lifetime habit, you might as well enjoy it – even if it’s simply the satisfaction of completing workout.
Teaming up with colleagues or friends of similar fitness level is great way to encourage commitment and make the time pass quickly. It’s more difficult to turn the alarm off, or decide today is too hot/cold/windy/busy if you know someone is waiting for you – especially if it’s the boss. M

Peter Tynan is chief executive of Southern Cross Health Society.

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