2017 / 15 June

How little exercise can I get away with?

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Sounds interesting? When everyone is trying to make you push boundaries and do more exercise, here is a catchy headline that’s talking about ‘little exercise’. Let me put things in perspective before you build on your relief and joy. I am going to talk about optimum level of exercise in general and not for a specific situation.


I am not a believer in a lot of exercise but for someone who has not done anything for long, even a little can sound a lot. So, let’s assume that you are a normal urban person and want to exercise for maintaining your health and fitness. Although, there is no end to fitness standards as measured by stamina and strength, normal health is easier to define.


Normal health means that you don’t suffer from any lifestyle disease like high blood sugar, high blood pressure and so on. In addition, your other health indicators as seen in the medical check up reports are in normal range. And you don’t have any vitamin and mineral deficiency.


If you are in this condition, you are in a big minority. Even if your above indicators are a bit abnormal, its not too late. Even if you have already developed some lifestyle conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes, exercising can help you manage them better. If you start taking care of your well-being even now, the body will reciprocate and your health will improve. Use the following tips to design your personal well-being regime: (For more detailed guidelines, refer to my book: Happiness is All We Want!)


  • Keep aside an hour for yourself. The day has 24 hours (thank me for reminding you!). How difficult can it be to keep one hour exclusively for the person closest to you – yourself. For a start write this down as a goal. Sample goal – “I am able to devote one hour exclusively to myself everyday”. Here, everyday means everyday. The days you are happy, the days you are sad, the days you are working, the days you are on holiday, the days you travel, the days you don’t travel, the days it is raining or snowing, the days it is cloudy or sunny etc. I think you get the idea.


  • Keep it flexible. For a start, if you find taking out one hour at one go, break it into two periods of thirty minutes each or three periods of twenty minutes each. We will talk a bit about the activities to be done during these time periods, but first you need to take out this one hour for yourself.


  • Start small, if required. In very tough circumstances, you may start with only thirty minutes per day, with a resolve to increase it to one hour over next three-four months. If you are anyway getting to sleep 5-6 hours a day and spending 2-3 hours on your commute, it may not be a good idea to cut your sleep or put more strain on yourself immediately. So start small. Ok, start with fifteen minutes only. But it is important to start.


  • Follow a wholesome well-being program. In my book, I describe a range of activities that you can follow to take care of your well-being in physical, mental and spiritual sphere. The idea is to balance the life and not become imbalanced by only going to gym or only doing yoga or only running marathons. So, learning and following a range of activities in each sphere is a sure remedy for being balanced and making your well-being journey sustainable for the rest of your life. The rewards are rich.


  • Get over small obstacles. The obstacles may come in the form of some health issue or the other, paucity of time, too many other responsibilities, lack of willingness initially, lack of support from family or your employer etc. Sometimes, we start something like this and then there is a small break. The small break becomes big and then the exercise never starts again. Don’t allow small break to become big or big break to destroy your program. Get over with the guilt of missing exercise for a few days. Start over and resolve never to miss again. I don’t advocate any break in your well-being program but if it happens, start again without guilt.


  • Be Efficient. You understand how difficult it is take out thirty minutes or an hour from a busy life. So, when you take this time, utilize it efficiently by cutting down on all distractions and wasteful activities. Exercise at sufficiently high intensity (according to your age, weight and medical condition), don’t watch TV at the gym, don’t read WhatsApp messages while on the cycle or treadmill and so on. If you are meditating, relax completely and keep aside the strains of daily life. Anyway, when you develop the practice of meditation, you will learn to do this. Taking out an hour for exercise but spending half of it in wasteful activities will not lead you anywhere and is unfair to those who are allowing you to take this time for yourself.


So, to answer the catchy question posed in the beginning, one hour a day of all well-being activities put together is enough for you to lead a happy and fulfilling life. This leaves enough time for family, friends, work, social service and last but not the least, sleep. The reason, I insist on starting small, even with fifteen minutes, is that it is like a seed. I am sure, it will turn into a beautiful tree one day, and you can relax in its shadow.

Feel free to leave your comments and write to me at info@ashutoshm.com

My book Happiness is All We Want! aims to make you happy wherever you are and successful in whatever you do.

Ashutosh Mishra - YouthCoach & Author

A seeker and explorer in the quest for lasting happiness, health and well-being. An MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur and a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Delhi. Has been a senior banker with large global banks like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and ANZ Bank. Working in these demanding global institutions with a gruelling schedule and plenty of business travel. Was fortunate to realise the importance of health and wellbeing early on. Learnt and practiced many wellbeing tools and techniques to focus on his own well-being while balancing the demands of a high-profile career and a lovely family.

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