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Tips for a Successful Exercise Plan

Published in Women's Services, Men's Health, For the Health of It, Exercise Author: Jon Heger, Physical Therapist

CentraCare Physical Therapist Jon Heger talks with KNSI’s Bob Hughes about how to get yourself to want to exercise, the health benefits of exercise and how to keep it going long term.

Bob Hughes: Why should people exercise?

Jon Heger: I live and breathe this stuff. I grew up in a Foley. I worked as a personal trainer and now I’m a physical therapist. There are multiple reasons why you'd want to exercise — blood pressure, body weight, prevention of diabetes and management of any chronic disease. But really what it comes down to, when you're looking to start an exercise program, you need to be able to tell yourself why you want to do it.

Bob Hughes: Where can we start when it comes to an exercise plan?

Jon Heger: Before starting any exercise program, especially if you haven’t done it for a while, you want to go see your doctor. There are so many different cardiac risk factors out there that puts you at risk for a heart attack. If you don’t have those cleared, you want to make sure you’re in good health before you get started.
It really depends on what your goals are, but if your goal is just to start working on an exercise program, the easiest thing that you can do for yourself is to walk. You do it already as a day-to-day activity. It’s just really asking you to do just a little bit more of what you're already doing to increase your aerobic capacity.

Bob Hughes: What is the best exercise to burn fat?

Jon Heger: In terms of burning fat, the best thing that you can do is be in a caloric deficit. Eat less calories and exercise more. Aerobic exercise is really easy. All I’m asking is get up and go for a walk for an extra half hour a day. And that right there, it can burn anywhere from 150 to 300 calories depending on your body weight.

Bob Hughes: Why do people say they just cannot squeeze exercise into their day?

Jon Heger: Everyone has their limiting factor — their reason why they don’t want to work out. They have kids, they have a job that is 40-plus hours a week — they have so many other things that are going on. The biggest thing is that you’ve got to find a way to make the time to want to do it. Something is going to come up every single week, every single day.

The best thing that you can do for yourself is to find your goal that you want to work toward, and you tell yourself, I will do this every single day to work toward this goal. If your “why” is strong enough, if your reason for wanting to work out is powerful enough, that in and of itself is a very strong motivating factor for you.

Bob Hughes: Everyone knows the benefits of exercise. What is our problem that we don’t like to exercise?

Jon Heger: It’s work. It’s something that you need to do and add on to your priority of things that we do every single day. Most people work their 40-hour week job, have two and a half kids, lots of other activities that they’d much rather be doing. It’s coming up with a way to make the time to go out and exercise.
Write down your goal. At CentraCare, we use what’s called an “I Will” statement and hold ourselves accountable with our jobs. I have those with exercise as well. “I will do this physical activity.” “I will run a 5K.” The “I Will” statement is writing down that goal that you want to work towards; that’s probably the easiest way to increase your adherence. And to be consistent.

Bob Hughes: What about some of the other exercise options that are out there?

Jon Heger: The biggest thing would be to get up an hour early and go for a walk. The reason I tell you to get up an hour early is because then you’re making the time to go into your exercise routine right then and there. The easiest thing to start with is a walk. It doesn’t cost you any money. You don’t need a $50 a month gym membership. You don’t need $100 running shoes, and you don’t need to spend $200 worth of supplements to get results.

Bob Hughes: How about the importance of a workout buddy?

Jon Heger: We want to look at activities that you enjoy and then having a partner, having somebody that you can do something with, helps a ton with consistency.

You can have different incentives for working out. For example, if I go to the gym five times this week, then I’m going to buy a new pair of shoes. Or there’s fitness trackers. My biggest accountability right now is my Apple Watch. It tells me if I don’t exercise for 30 minutes in a day, it tells me I need to get up and move every two hours. So those are nice little reminders that are worked in throughout the day telling me to get up and move a little bit more.

The Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days of the week or 150 minutes. If you break that down, that’s five days a week of doing 30 minutes of aerobic activity of moderate intensity, which means you shouldn’t be able to hold a conversation while you’re doing the exercise regime in order to get to that recommended level of fitness. Unfortunately, that’s usually not enough for most people. That’s what more and more research is starting to show. If you have a desk job, you can go and work out for 30 minutes and sit on your butt for the rest of your day and you’re still sedentary for lifestyle and then you’re still at risk for all these other cardiac risk factors or diabetes.

Bob Hughes: How do we know when pain is too much?

Jon Heger: Everyone has their own internal compass of how much pain is too much pain. When you’re working out, things get sore and irritated. A good rule of thumb is if something’s bothering you while you’re doing it, you don’t want to do that activity because you could potentially be making things worse. And at that point, you’d want to come in and see a physical therapist like me or one of my colleagues. If it goes away in two or three days, it’s probably just post-workout soreness and you’re OK to proceed with caution.

Bob Hughes: What’s a good way to stay positive throughout all of this?

Jon Heger: Go back to that goal you’re working toward. Have that in mind every single time that you do an exercise routine or if you’re struggling. Have that goal somewhere in front of you so that you can go back to it. That’s the number one way to remain accountable.