Viet Le has so many irons in the fire that when we talked on the phone, I couldn’t figure out an equation that included him sleeping at night. Viet is a physician assistant, passionate advocate, and researcher at Intermountain Health in Salt Lake City, where he specializes in cardiovascular research. We sat down for the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Move More month and discussed five common barriers to incorporating exercise and activity into the average person’s week.
New guidelines from the AHA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services emphasize incremental change on the path to getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly, but even with the emphasis on gradual progress, Viet identified six common hang-ups preventing people from starting on the path to physical fitness.
“Many just are not sure where to start. There is a bit of exercise inertia in all of us,” explains Viet. So often people equate triathlon-like events with exercise, nothing more, nothing less. But the truth is, movement of all kinds is beneficial—you’ve likely heard it all before—take the stairs, add five minutes of walking to your break, and park at the back of the lot the next time you visit the grocery store. Those suggestions aren’t just talking points, they’re a truly great place to start. Remember, 150 minutes is the goal, not the starting point.
Viet recommends two basic principles for average people experiencing inertia:
- Start where you are
- Start low, go slow, but go
All or nothing
A common misconception at the heart of our conversation was the idea of all or nothing when it comes to exercise. Viet laments, “We falsely believe that movement is not beneficial unless one is out of breath, sweating, experiencing muscle soreness during or after, or done for at least thirty minutes at a time.” Your thirty minutes doesn’t have to happen all at once.
Combine a five-minute walk with ten lunges at your work station, and when you get up to fill your water bottle, take a quick jaunt up and down the stairs at work—this movement adds up throughout the day, and if you’ve ever saved cash for a purchase, you know that every bit counts toward your end goal.
Viet points out that on average “we have overscheduled our lives” and most of that scheduling includes time spent sitting—whether it’s all day at an office, driving in a car, or as a spectator at children’s sporting events. Most of our time is dedicated to hustle and bustle, to and from events.
It’s unlikely you can undo most of your scheduling, but the next time you’re at a sporting event for a kiddo in your life, try standing during part of the game, or do ten squats in the stall during your next bathroom break—just find some way to add a bit of movement to combat all that sitting.
Motivation comes and goes, and it can be difficult to pull yourself out off the couch after a long day to go walk around the block for thirty minutes, which is why Viet recommends an accountability partner for the extra push. Feeling beholden to another person can be enough reason to throw on your yoga clothes and hit the mat. Scroll through your phone and find a buddy who can keep you company.
For some, the idea of walking stairs at work, or doing awkward squats on the assembly line, is mortifying, but not because of the movement itself—because they’re afraid of messing up their clothes or feeling sweaty. Viet assured me that, “One does not need to get sweaty and there are many activities that can be completed in work clothes safely.” Remember, you don’t have to be huffing, puffing, and dripping sweat for your movement to make a difference. Viet dares you to do a couple jumping jacks at work and see what happens.
How can you add thirty minutes of incremental movement to your day? Try some of Viet’s suggestions and tell us how it’s going on Facebook!