Starting an Exercise Program

Nov 25, 2020 | Tara Schmidt, RDN, LD | @taraschmidt | Comments (2)

Man running outside

The following was written by a Mayo Clinic patient who has undergone bariatric surgery. They wished to remain anonymous upon posting.  

When thinking about starting an exercise program, the experts always tell us to start small.  Well let me tell you just how small “small” was for me.  I made my way to the Mayo Clinic bariatric surgery program in 2011 and had my initial consultation with my assigned endocrinologist.  I was greeted with a very understanding physician who never made me feel bad about my weight.

The first exercise assignment he gave me was to stand up during television commercials as I sat and relaxed during the evenings.  From there we proceeded to walking around my kitchen island.  It took about three weeks, but pretty soon I was able to walk around the island six times.  As small as it may seem, this was a real accomplishment.  As weeks turned into months I steadily increased my activity a tiny bit at a time.  I started climbing steps whenever possible.  In nice weather I began to walk outside.  For me walking was my chosen form of exercise.  I didn’t want to swim or go to the gym.

Personal trainers and fitness gurus will say start small at 30 minutes a day.  That is not realistic for someone who has a large amount of weight to lose.  The individuals I worked with at Mayo Clinic encouraged even the smallest of steps.  Today I walk for about 45 minutes three times a week.  This is not a great deal of exercise according to fitness standards, but it is a program that I can actually follow.

I have decided that I am going to measure success not by the great quantity of exercise that I complete but by the difference between what I used to do and what I am able to do today.  Hopefully measuring success in this manner will help me stick to this program.  As one of the Mayo nurse practitioners said to me last week, pat yourself on the back; look how far you have come.

Thank you for sharing your experience – it has encouraged me to do likewise. Thank you!


Thank you for sharing your experience – it has encouraged me to do likewise. Thank you!

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@speechless623, I'm curious. What changes have you made in your approach to exercise and attitude? What's working for you?

For me, part of the change was simply putting on my workout clothes as soon as I got up. That confirmed my commitment and, heck, I was already dressed so I might as well get moving no matter how small, right?

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