The First Five Minutes

By Curtis Rittenour

Photo by Dreamstime

Staying physically active can help prevent or delay some diseases, like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Exercise can even help people who struggle with depression or low moods. But many in the U.S. have sedentary jobs, sitting at desks that keep them off their feet. As some people get older, their activities slow down as well. Of course, one of the biggest barriers to stretching your muscles and moving your body is simply this: “I don’t feel like exercising!”

I have a secret. I learned that if I just push myself beyond the initial resistance I feel each morning before taking a brisk walk, my attitude changes. If you’re like me, you wake up and sometimes hear rain coming down outside, and then say to yourself, “It’s not a good day to get up and go for a walk.” So you turn over in bed and go back to sleep. I’ve done it many times!

Normal people don’t always feel like exercising. Our moods change. Sometimes we stay up late or the weather is cloudy or cold. There are obvious times to not exercise, especially if you have a serious health condition and your doctor tells you to lay low. But, by and large, most everyone would benefit from taking a brisk walk in the fresh air (and sunshine if it’s not hiding) for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. 1

Here is what I’ve discovered about becoming regular in my morning walk. Even though I don’t initially “feel” like getting up, if I do some simple stretches, put on my walking shoes, my emotions start to change. If they don’t, by the time I get outside and only walk for one minute, I almost always feel glad to be physically active.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list several benefits that can also motivate you to get active. Physical exercise will help you control your weight, reduce your risk of heart disease, reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes, and reduce your risk of some cancers. It also strengthens your bones and muscles. 2

Some people make a commitment to exercise with a friend. That increases the accountability factor. If you know you’re supposed to meet someone at the gym or park, you’re more motivated to make that appointment. Besides, many like to combine the social factor and enjoy sharing their workouts with a friend. Even good old Fido can help you get outside and walk. (Dogs do much better when they get a brisk tromp at least once a day.)

If you want to be more motivated to follow through a physical routine, pick an activity that appeals to you. If you choose something that requires more money, or more time, or fancy equipment, it can be a detriment to stepping up.

It’s also helpful to set reasonable goals. The first time I went jogging in college with my roommate, I tried to keep up with his regular routine and ran five miles. That was a big mistake! Even if you only exercise a few minutes a day at first, it will benefit your body. Start small and then add time or length to your routine. And don’t give up if you slip up.

The biggest hurdle for me takes place in the first five minutes. Once I push myself past my I-don’t-feel-like-exercising emotions, I’m good to go! That’s all it takes to get my body moving — just five minutes.