11/06/2013 12:32 EST | Updated 11/06/2013 12:32 EST

Tiny Tips for Starting on the Road to Health


Pretty much everyone nowadays knows the basic information about what you need to do to be healthy and feel good: Eat well, exercise, meditate, and so forth. Despite knowing these things, many people are unable to put them into action.

If you are starting from a standpoint of not doing any exercise or not paying any attention to your diet, you might find my tips helpful in starting to be healthier. I have found a couple of keys to starting on the road to health: first, start in tiny micro-steps; and second, discover what you personally like to do -- what works for you.

I was feeling down recently and I decided I needed to do something about it. I am aware of a lot of research that says exercise can be really good for low mood, potentially even better than medication.

I felt the most effective type of exercise to help me was aerobic, something that would get my heart pumping. I already do weight lifting once a week (with my excellent personal trainer, Anthony Di Pasquale), but the thought of doing aerobic exercise was overwhelming -- it brought to mind the image of doing exhausting hour-long Zoomba classes in a room filled with sweaty people who were much more fit than I. I thought I had to live up to an expectation of doing exercise which for me was out of my range of possibility. The preconceived notion that I needed to do an hour of intense exercise to get any benefit was holding me back

This kept me stuck, unable to start doing more aerobic exercise, a situation that was not helped by feeling down already.

I then learned that in fact only 10 minutes of exercise can have an impact. Once I heard that, I started to change my point of view. I thought that if I could do only 10 minutes of exercise a day, but do it consistently, I could make a real impact on my health. Ten minutes of exercise is something I could easily accomplish, and since doing that much exercise seemed attainable, all it took was a bit of commitment on my part to do it. Once I found a point of entry that was achievable, the next part of my strategy came in: finding a way to do it that works for me.

When I say finding a way that works for me, I mean that I needed a type of exercise that was easy and enjoyable for me, and finding a way to do it that had the least number of obstacles in the way.

The first problem was that I had to find a gym to go to. I had already checked out gyms in the area. The one that was closest to me was only a couple of blocks away, but it was one of the more expensive gyms around. I decided that was the right gym to choose, despite the price. the close proximity to my place meant that i would be much more likely to go, and the higher price was justified by the fact I would actually go there and exercise. If you think of it, the price of joining another gym with cheaper membership rates but that was father away -- which I therefore wouldn't actually go to -- was much higher.

The next problem was actually joining the gym. I was thinking about it for a while, but it wasn't until my girlfriend took me by the hand and walked me the two blocks to the gym and made me join that I started.

The exercise that I chose was going on the elliptical machine. The elliptical machine is like a step machine, except you move your legs round and round. there are arm handles too. Overall it is a pretty easy exercise to do, and it gets my blood pumping and gives me a good workout.

The thing that really made me choose the elliptical, though, is the fact that the machines have built in TVs in them. I don't have a TV at home, so it is a special treat to watch TV with the elliptical machine. It makes the time zip past, so I am done my ten minutes in a flash. Another thing I like about the elliptical machines is that there is a built in heart monitor. I like to watch my heart rate, and kind of play with it like a game -- see if I can get it to go to 160, back down to 120, and so forth.

So far I have been doing exercise pretty consistently for two weeks, and have seen big improvements. I just feel happy and "up" after doing my ten minutes of exercise, though it does leave me pretty tired. My mood is noticeably better. Sometimes I do a little more than 10 minutes. The only thing for me to see now is finding a way to keep up exercising consistently. I'll have to check back with you when I find tips for that!

Joel's tiny tips for those who want to take the first steps to health:

-When you are starting out, don't focus on becoming a pentathlete or doing a full hour of an intensive exercise class. Know that tiny interventions can have a big impact. Rather start with tiny actions, but try to do them pretty consistently.

- Discover the exercises and set up that feels best for you, that you enjoy. It makes it much easier!

- Don't feel guilty about anything connected to health. Feeling guilty is a real downer. Try instead to connect with the feeling that you can take positive action to help yourself. Celebrate every small step.

-Ask for help if you need it. A little gentle pressure can help

You can use this process for anything you want to achieve. Start in tiny bite size portions, in the easiest possible way. Good luck!

One last little tip: do you like Pilates or yoga? You have to try ELDOA, a type of exercise that was developed by a French osteopath. It helps you strengthen and connect with your body in new ways that you can't really achieve in any other way. You can take a class at Mitrea Wellness in Toronto with Rucsandra Mitrea, an excellent instructor and expert in ELDOA who has built up a loyal following.

Joel Garten is a composer, artist, writer and entrepreneur. You can view his artwork and listen to his music on his website: Joel Garten, Artist and Composer. This article was originally published on Joel Garten's blog: The Beauty of Life.

You can also read Joel Garten's other Huffington Post articles:

Travel tips for Florence, Venice and summertime in Toronto.

Artist profiles of conductor Alex Pauk, pianist Vicky Chow and pianist Claudia Chan.

And read about how Joel Garten composed new piano music during Hurricane Sandy.

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