Hate To Exercise? Baby Step Your Way To Fitness!

photo: Caitlinator
They stalk us everywhere – these directives to get x amount of hours of exercise per week.  Magazine headlines, news stories, self-help articles, your health care professional.

But what if the E word just makes you want to puke?

Here’s an idea:  How about throwing out that word entirely? It’s just a word after all. What if you substituted “movement” for “exercise?”

Have you gotten up and stretched today? When did you last step outside for a walk?

If you have to reach back in your memory to answer those questions, you’re likely depleting your own energy levels.

If you’re cringing with guilt right now and about to click away because you know you hate the gym, you’re not a runner, and basically you fail at all attempts to initiate an exercise regime – WAIT.

There IS a solution.

First, let’s look at how we got here.

As far as everyday life is concerned, we’ve come a long way from our caveman roots. The guys no longer stalk game for hours nor do we ladies need to scramble through the forest for half the day searching out grasses, nuts and berries for sustenance.

Instead most of us spend our days with our butts planted in a chair, staring at a computer screen. That’s how we (indirectly) create our sustenance in today’s times.

Even just a couple of decades ago, this wasn’t the case. Sure, sedentary jobs existed and the U.S. worship of the automobile was in full swing, but still, certain daily needs required us to be up and out of our chair.

Not so much now. We can do basically everything from our chair – even shop for groceries!

The problem is our bodies haven’t caught up with this transition.

You could say that these bodily vessels have not evolved as quickly as our brains. It’s kind of sad that we now have to ‘make time’ for movement in our day. It’s yet another chore to do, something to fit in.

Forget about any weight loss goals you have for the moment – this is about your health, longevity and ability to access your own smile.

Stop thinking about movement as something you ‘should’ do for weight loss or weight maintenance. Sure, it can help with these things. But it becomes another ‘should’ that your Inner Critic cracks the whip around.

How about a change in perspective?

Focus on your desire to feel good right now. To have some energy for the task at hand, to hear uplifting thoughts swirling around in your brain rather than complaints, to feel pain-free.

That’s way more motivating.

Sure you can concentrate on a future when you have stamina to chase grandkids around, or the ability to walk for miles while visiting another country – those thoughts are motivating too. But they can feel too distant to get you out of that chair.

Think about how you want to feel RIGHT NOW!

But, you may be thinking. I still hate to exercise!

Have you ever considered the middle path?

I mean sure, it’s awesome – ideal even – if you can incorporate an hour or so of regular exercise into most of your days, but if that just doesn’t seem possible right now there’s no need to throw in the towel entirely.

Here’s the thing:   just 5 or 10 minutes of getting that body up and going is way, way better than none at all.

In fact, you’re far more likely to stick with something that doesn’t gobble up yourd time, or leave you sore and exhausted.

Think about it. How many times have you resolved to start a workout program. Diligently walked, ran (or swam, done your yoga, whatever) for 4 or 5 days in row…only to collapse, get bored, or fall so behind with work that it all slipped away?

This time, let’s try starting small. Really, really small.

You don’t even have to leave the house if you don’t want to (although if you do you’ll get the added benefits of a sweet blast of head-clearing fresh air, courtesy Mother Nature.)

The Baby Step Movement Rx

Here’s the prescription:  Add 5-10 minutes of movement into your day. (C’mon, everyone has 5 or 10 extra minutes! Think about how much time you spend on Facebook!)

A timer or calendar reminder alert system is your friend here. Start with just one of these ideas:

1) Take a stretch break.

My friend and client was lamenting that the day seems to slip by and she doesn’t even make time to stretch.  She feels creaky, achey and grouchy as a result.

Now, she has a calendar reminder go off every day at 4 p.m. to remind her to take 5, get out of the chair and just do a few neck rolls, hamstring stretches, whatever feels like it needs to be stretched. A great late afternoon pick-me-up, and way better than more caffeine!

2) Walk around the block  – fast.

Use the same alert system to get your heart pumping – even if it’s just for 2 or 3 minutes. If it’s cold out, you’ll need a couple minutes to get bundled up. Step outside into the fresh air and just propel yourself around the block (or whatever area nearby that adds up to 3-5 minutes). Then it’s back to your desk – refreshed and newly alert!

3) Get up and dance! (And do it like no one’s watching.)

I love this idea – and I have several friends who incorporate it into their day. It’s a definite attitude adjuster as well as a way to get some movement in.

If you work in an office, this one doesn’t work so well during the work day. But you can throw on some of your favorite upbeat tunes at home in the morning or evening and take just five minutes to shake it up around your living room.

I think this one works even better if you get a little crazy here – doesn’t matter if you ‘can’t’ dance, this is just for you!

4) Squats or deep knee bends.

It’s amazing how invigorating the simple squat is – it uses so many muscles, and doing just a few of these a day can really build up your fitness level, raise your heart rate, and tone your thighs as an added benefit!

So, what’s a squat? A personal trainer would probably give you a much more detailed explanation, but what I’m talking about is simply placing your legs about shoulder distance apart (or a bit wider) and bending your knees as you lower your torso and butt (just a little is fine to start) while raising your arms or lifting them above your head.

At some point I’ll make a video to show you this – promise!

How low you squat doesn’t matter. Make it challenging, but it shouldn’t hurt. Watch your knees, they should never extend beyond your toes. Start with 10 squats and work your way up to 25. This takes less than a minute and you can do it in the morning and evening and/or as a desk break.

5) The 10-Minute Invigorator.

I haven’t made that video yet, but my colleague Farnoosh Brock of Prolific Living has! This awesome lady has created a video series that gets you breathing and moving for just 10 minutes a day. Super easy moves.

Farnoosh demonstrates for varying levels of fitness – and I guarantee you truly will feel invigorated and ready to tackle your morning.

These videos also work great as an after work pick-me-up, or a refresher at any time during the day.

I’m so impressed with Farnoosh’s talent in getting me motivated to move! I do have a regular exercise program. But sometimes I want to add in a little extra movement to get the day going or to break up my workday. I was getting tired of my own boring moves so I decided to try out Farnoosh’s first 10-Miinute Invigorator video – which she offers for free.

Wow! I loved it. Farnoosh combines principals from yoga and other exercise traditions to not only get your body moving but to generate an overall feeling of well being. If you need a little extra encouragement to get moving – do check out the 10 Minute Invigorator!

(And if you decide to buy the full series after clicking one of the links here, I’ll receive a small payment as an ‘affiliate.’ Maybe enough to keep me in organic coffee so I can continue to pump out these blog posts!)

So, what do you think? Are you ready to add 5-10 minutes of movement into your day? The heck with ‘exercise’! Just get moving!

Pick one or more of the tips above. Try out this baby step plan for a month (you know what they say about changing habits – takes at least 28 days, I think longer really). Then, you could begin adding in a little more time if you want or need to. Maybe this is enough for you. Check in with how you FEEL. How’s your energy?

If and when you’re ready to step up the game, I have a few more resources up my sleeve. I’ll save them for another time though.  For now, think baby steps!

I’d love to hear from you if you like any of these ideas – or if you’ve got another baby step trick to get the body moving! Let’s use the comment section and help each other to get moving!



52 Responses to Hate To Exercise? Baby Step Your Way To Fitness!

  1. I agree 100%. If it was about my long-term health… I’m no so confident I would be exercising 5 times a week. 
    But exercise makes me feel sooooo good. Almost as good as doing drugs (not that I would know what that feels like….). 
    Deep squats are evil.

    • @HappierHuman  you’ve got it! exercise can be a better high than any substance – illegal or legal! Those endorphins are powerful.
      Yes, deep squats can be a bit painful. But they do such nice shaping to certain areas!
      Thanks for stopping in & glad you’re a movement convert!

    • @Sandi Amorim  That 10-Minute-Invigorator is like a little piece of movement heaven. Just gets the day off right!

  2. What a great Ninja word move! Replacing the word ‘exercise’ with ‘movement’ . Just reading those two words out loud, I can feel the difference it makes, the word ‘exercise’ has so much baggage attached.
    Great tips, too, I’m a fan of the small steps approach.

    • @Dave Rowley  Ooh, I love it! I’m a ninja!  A word movement Ninja!
      So true about how those connotations with certain words can bring out such resistance! I’m sort of over it now but my inner brat used to get all worked up at the mere mention of ‘exercise.’ But she doesn’t even bat an eyelash at ‘movement’!

  3. I love, love, love dancing for some cardio! Swimming too (just treading water is a calorie scorcher!) 
    Pandora + Me = All the workout equipment I need!

    • @KimThirion   Pandora’s the biggest awesome, isn’t it? I’d love any recommendations you have for good Pandora dancing stations C’mon Kim, share the love!
      And yes, swimming is surprisingly effective for body shaping and calorie burning – with no nasty joint or muscle straining effects.

      • @saraho Well, I guess it really depends on what kind of music you like! I love Kesha, so I created a station based off her music… so it comes up with a lot of very danceable beats.

  4. Funny, that’s literally what I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks! Taking more steps. I found a pedometer and clipped it on…and was horrified to see that I only walked like 2,000 steps my first day! We’re supposed to take at least 10,000! Since I’ve been monitoring that, I’ve been trying to squeeze in more movement when I previously would’ve kept sitting. I take more trips upstairs, get up from my desk more often and am taking longer walks.
    Anywho, great tips. Maybe I’ll start incorporating squats into my desk routine. When nobody’s around, that is. 😉

    • @ZenCaffeine  Funny you should mention that. i just entered a contest to win a free pedometer. I’m curious to know how many steps I take on days that find me sitting at my desk longer than I’d like. I’m glad I have some stairs to climb to get to the kitchen! That helps. But don’t know if I’m making 10,000 steps unless I take a walk. But at least I’m getting those stretches and mini invigorators in!

  5. Yes, this post does mirror a shift I’ve undergone as far as my attitude toward exercise goes — I used to be focused on making my body look good to others, whereas now it’s really about how I feel each day.  If I want to walk around enjoying my life, I need to stay in shape — no question about it for me at this point..

    • @acordaamor  I find it so much easier to get moving when I drop the story about how I have to so I don’t ‘get fat.’  What I’ve realized is that I feel happy and energized when I’ve made movement a priority, and when I haven’t I feel crummy and depressed. That’s motivation enough (although I don’t mind the physical benefits too! 🙂  )

  6. I love number 3!  Me and Cece got in such great shape going out dancing all the time!  We would make it a competition and see if we could go the entire time we were there until we left. Never leaving the dance floor.
    That and ANYTHING Farnoosh is doing will be the best thing for you!

    • @heretoinspire   Woo Hoo! Now THAT sounds like a fun way to get in your movement and exercise. I love getting out dancing too…and the more I do it the better I get at just letting go and enjoying the fun without any self consciousness.
      Farnoosh’s invigorator is totally awesome for those days you can’t get on the dance floor. I’m telling you!

  7. I think the problem is that it’s hard to remember that even that 5 or 10 minutes of movement is GOOD. (I wonder how many more “that”s I could have shoved into THAT sentence?!) We’re really locked into a mindset that 5 or 10 minutes doesn’t do anything for us but I think your point is that it’s a start and a really good one. I like your friend’s idea of the alarm going off to remind her to stretch. I try to do that occasionally, too.

    • @BobbiEmel It’s beyond good – those 10 minutes a day count up to over an hour a week and the consistency will make your body sooo happy, Bobbie!

    • @BobbiEmel  Farnoosh is exactly right. It all adds up, and if we’re pressed for time, or just feeling too overwhelmed to do a ‘real’ workout, 10 minutes of invigoration makes a world of difference in your attitude. I’m glad I got over that mindset myself. It used to be I either exercised or ‘not’. Now I realize that the movement that flow in and out of my day, whether I go for a run or to the gym, or just make my own mini workout on the rug!

  8. A couple of things stuck out for me from this post.
    First, I stretched and took an hour long walk with the dogs today. But I also ate crap I shouldn’t which completely counteracts the benefits of my exercise/movement (and then some).
    Second, I caught a contradiction in here, at least in my head. You said, “we’ve come a long way from our caveman roots” and then followed it up with “The problem is our bodies haven’t caught up with this (evolutionary) transition.” My reality is that almost all the ways we live in modern society go completely against our ancestral roots. This applies to not just our bodies, but also our brains, guts, and emotions. That’s the way I see things through a Paleo philosophy at least, even if I don’t embody it all the time (like in how I ate today).
    I’m starting to doubt this comment went anywhere.

    • @joeyjoejoe  I have to disagree with your first statement Joel. I would turn that around and say that your long walk and time in the fresh air actually counteracted the junk you ate! Try that on and see how it feels! What we tell ourselves matters, I truly believe that. Beating yourself up for eating crap in my experience only leads to eating more crap. Adding in beneficial activities and foods is a way to counteract any ‘negatives’ and also to replenish yourself.
      And what I meant with that contradiction is that although everything in the way we live our modern lives is completely different from those paleo roots, our physical workings still are operating with nearly the same system. The evolution of the human body is happening at a much slower pace than the evolution of our lifestyles. I’m no expert, but at least that’s how I understand it.
      Hope today was a better day – with a walk AND some nourishing food!

  9. For years I tried to introduce a daily exercise routine.  This would last for about six weeks, when some event in life would stop me doing it and months later I would feel bad and start over again. 
    I have managed now to retain a daily walking routine for two years. 
    I did this by not seeing the activity as a chore, another job on my list.  It’s become my relaxing activity where I can get special timeout communing with nature, sometimes alone but might catch up with a friend by suggesting a walk, fun with the dog or the opportunity to listen to that podcast or audiobook.
    I started off small, just 10 minutes but now can’t wait to give myself that special hour each afternoon.
    If for some reason I miss out due to visitors, bad weather or illness I simply pick up from where I left off.

    • @Priska  I think you’ve hit a key point in that last sentence. If you miss your little routine for some reason (weather, illness, visitors) you simply pick up again where you left out. No beating yourself up, no whip cracking, no lamentations! You know your walk feels good for YOU, it’s not about something you SHOULD do. Not another chore, but instead a loving gift to yourself.
      Thanks for the great comment Priska!

  10. Exercise is my fav, now that my knee is on the mend I am back to 5 days a week, minimum 30 minutes.  But I do seat at my computer for almost all the other 23.5 hours, so I do need to take more movement breaks for sure.

    • @LoriLynnSmith   So glad the knee is on the mend and you’ve been able to get back into your own movement regime Lori! It’s true that those of us who spend our working days with the screen need it even more! That’s why I give myself the 10 minutes on those days I realize the 30 minutes just ain’t gonna happen.

  11. Totally awesome advice!  I offer a very similar approach in my soon-to-be-released Mindful Body program.  It’s so common to relate the word “exercise” with painful things.  I love “movement” since we can all do it and it’s FUN!
    I’ve practiced yoga for over ten years but, with three little kids to care for, my early morning yoga went flying out the window.  I struggled to get it back into my day.  Then I discovered the daily reminder trick.  I have a daily reminder in Outlook and on my phone that goes off each day at 3pm to remind me to step away from the computer and other craziness and take time for myself with yoga and meditation.  I love how it makes me feel physically and emotionally and I hate how I feel when I skip it.
    Yes, chasing my three little ones around and cleaning up after them are probably all the activity I need but it’s not the focused movement my body and mind crave.
    Sarah – I love how you handled the “should’s.”  So often people think they should exercise for at least 30 minutes, at least 3 times a week because that’s what “They” say we should all do.  B.S.!!  Like you’ve said: Just get up and move wherever and whenever you can and get creative about it.

    • @PaigeBurkes  Yes, you were one of my first inspirations about that timer idea Paige! Mid-afternoon is the perfect time for a movement pick-me-up. Whether it’s 5 minutes or 50 minutes, the point is to get the energy moving in whatever way you can. Even more crucial now as the weather gets less conducive to walks and outside activities.
      And you’re so right about the difference between the ‘exercise’ we get with daily activities like cleaning and chasing kids, and the movement that is our way to honor our own being. We need more than just that day to day exercise. And you’re right – those movement breaks are actually FUN. It’s all about shifting the focus isn’t it? Removing that baggage, that stigma, that ‘should’!  And it’s a completely different experience for every different individual.

  12. That was a cool post.
    Personally for me though the small steps don’t work – since a week already I don’t allow myself to have breakfast till I complete my 30 minutes pilates video. With each day it gets easier and the trick is not to skip a day, no matter what! 🙂

    • @Ani_LifeProb  How awesom that you’re fitting in Pilates every morning. It’s one of my favorite exercise forms these days. But I’m definitely going for the small steps when I don’t have time for a full video or class. I now know my favorite moves, so I’ll just spend 5-10 minutes doing some of those a couple of times a day.  Remember that Ani if you have a crazy morning, or if your computer is on the fritz or whatever – you can still do your Pilates!

  13. I used to be a true detester of exercise — I mean movement. 🙂  And then I worked with a coach who helped me realize that I was afraid of exercise because I had been injured several times in my childhood while exercising.  Once I knew that, I got a rebounder and had my coach on the phone the first time I stepped on to it.  She talked me through the fear, reminded me the rebounder movement was similar to horseback riding (which I love), and basically helped change the meaning I was attaching to exercise.  Breakthrough! 
    I now work out in the pool every morning at 6:30 am and find myself talking about the joy of exercise.  Who knew?!  I actually miss it the mornings I don’t get to the pool.  This is nothing short of a miracle.  For those of you with medical issues who find weight-bearing exercise too difficult — walking too painful, etc. — try the pool.  And for those of you who hate exercise as much as I used to, look at the meaning you’re attaching to exercise and change it.  Trust me.  If I can change my attitude about exercise, than you can — honest!

    • @Carol Hess  Sounds like you had a truly awesome coach there Carol! It’s so amazing when that breakthrough happens. “Exercise”, er, movement loses that big nasty connotation and morphs into being a friend. The kind of friend you rely on to get you through tough days. Such a beautiful switchover.
      I never would have thought while growing up as a super un-athletic kid, always picked last for the team, that I would ever EVER enjoy anything remotely related to exercise. But the switchover happened to me too. And now I can’t go for too many days without calling in my reliable friend to help me through.

  14. I love your “baby steps” approach.  It’s so easy to fall into “all or nothing” thinking….especially about exercise, but really regarding just about anything.  In my younger days, I would have seen a baby step as not worth doing — but the older I get, the more I realize that forward momentum still moves you forward, no matter how small the step.  Thank you for the reminder!!

    • @LynnHess  I hear you Lynn! It took me nearly five decades to get to the point of realization that baby steps are where it’s at. I spent way too long thinking I had to make a leap from here to THERE, and I had to do it RIGHT NOW. Otherwise there was something wrong for me. Now I’m realizing that the baby step technique is a seriously overlooked pathway to profound personal change.

  15. Over the moon honored that you have mentioned me here, dear Sarah! Thank you so much for writing about moving our bodies, our temples, a message that is deeply important to me and something I advocate from the bottom of my heart to all you beautiful women!

    • @Farnoosh I was over the moon to discover your fabulous invigorator series, Farnoosh! Through them you embody that message that is also so profoundly important to me. And you’ve shown me that the grace and beauty of moving my body doesn’t just have to come from flogging myself through a long workout. There are so many ways to fall in love with what our bodies can do!

  16. This post should be posted every three months as a reminder.
    Farnoosh, there are menopausal men here too!:) But hey, I call it “cardio” and if I can’t run or swim at the moment, then I do three or four quick 100 yard sprints that take ten minutes and get my heart racing like it was tuesday. Works every time. Longer interval “movements” have their sepparate benefits, but more time is required and, these days, time is everything…unfortunately…which brings us back to just “being” here there…be,run,do? OOKAAY:)

    • @HIDon Hi Don, I am sure Sarah will be happy to give you a regular kick in the pants as a reminder, she’s doing such a fab job I am stepping aside to just watch!!! But seriously: Stay Active. It will keep you young and happy :)!

      • @Farnoosh Well, mabe this site IS just for women…redirection of comment…new to this

        • @HIDon Hey Don, not sure what on earth you are referring to!! But this fantastic site is for anyone who wants to benefit from the wonderful message of Sarah and if that’s you, great. If not, no worry.

        • @Farnoosh “something I advocate from the bottom of my heart to all you beautiful women”…and I DO like this site:)

    • @HIDon I’m happy to spread the good word to all who can enjoy and benefit – regardless of gender – as I know Farnoosh is as well! And so glad Don that your driveway lends itself to some 100 yard sprints! I’m in the city now – so counting the blocks on my runs. But that’s fine – I’m living in tree-lined streets and the leaves are beautiful right now.  Oh – and my understanding is that the newer studies are showing that short intervals ARE quite beneficial! So, don’t worry about how much time there is, just go for it!

  17. Of course I have a hundred yard driveway so…maybe not for city folk unless you are near a park or track.

  18. What a great post Sarah and what a great exercise program Farnoosh has. 
    So many people suffer from low energy and don’t realize that a little exercise might help them feel more invigorated. Farnoosh 10 minutes invigorater is perfect on so many levels.
    Who can’t spare 10 minutes a day right? Plus, it’s a guided learning approach for those that need a little hand holding but can’t get to the gym.
    Plus i love how it also has French Sub titles.
    I don’t do yoga but I do lots of kick boxing with a bag at home and stretching. it’s what works for me. I used to struggle with exercise and hated it untii i found kick boxing which i can do for a long time but it feels like minutes to me. The trick is to find something you can stick with that you also enjoy so it doesn’t feel like work and feels painful. or at least that is how it was for me..

    • @AnnieAndreHacks  Ooh, I didn’t know about the French subtitles! I don’t think my version has that. How cool – you can spread the good word over there in France!
      Kickboxing with a bag sounds like an awesome activity to get your movement in! Not only are you getting your heart pumping and your muscles moving, but you can work out whatever frustrations might have piled up during the day. Love that idea!

      • @saraho  @AnnieAndreHacks Sarah, check instructions that I added on how to turn on the French sub-titles. They should be in there! Email me if you want some help sorry it wasn’t obvious!

  19. I must check out Farnoosh’s videos. I finally realized late in my thirties that I hate the gym and I can’t run to save my life. Fortunately for me I had found tennis. Exercise is now fun and something that I love. Another thing I do if it’s raining is cycle on an exercise bike in front of my laptop watching a god Ted Talk or documentary. Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore!

    • @CiaraConlon Dear Ciara, thank you for admitting how you feel about the gym – me too! Argh! I did find a cycling/yoga studio that I frequented for a while but it wasn’t sustainable. I was doing too much cycling… although I loved it…. but I do love cycling so I hear you. However, whatever you do, make sure to do your due diligence on *** stretching and flexibility**** either with my program or with something else. Keeps you young and beautiful :)!

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