The first step in this situation is to just get the person moving. Find something he/she enjoys and incorporate the activity(ies) with a beginner’s strength training and core-focused program. Regular low level activity will help prep a sedentary person for more intense exercise. It will also increase the emotional benefits associated with exercise in order to create further motivation for increased physical activity.
Examples of low level activities:
A weekly schedule for a recently sedentary person would look something like this:
Day 1: Strength training/weight lifting
Day 2: Low level activity
Day 3: Core focused exercises
Day 4: Low level activity
Day 5: Strength training/weight lifting
Day 6: Low level activity
Day 7: Core focused exercises
First I would refer them to a physician for physical activity release form. Proper health risks taken into consideration, I would start with low level activities like walking if capable, or swimming if obese. If they are not able to walk or legs are weak, possibly start with chair exercises. Increase leg strength with exerbands or leg weights. Upper cardio strength with arms movements, after a while use 3-5 lbs. free weights. Exercise would be 5-6 times per week at 30 minute intervals.
We’d start with a discussion about what types of activities they might enjoy, and how to begin incorporating that activity consistently, 3 or 4 days a week to start.
Something as simple as a 20 minute brisk walk, actively playing with their kids, going for a bike ride, or trying a new dvd or class. At first, my approach would be focused on creating a sense of success through consistency, building confidence through small, achievable goals that can be built upon incrementally.
Just as important as preparing the body is preparing the mind, improving self-efficacy and confidence that one can accomplish something that has likely been difficult in the past.
I employ a hybrid of both Iola and Catherine’s suggestions. For my clients who have been sedentary for a great length of time. We discuss their goals and expectations when beginning a program. I also take some time to establish small goals for them to work toward. Moving around every 30 min after sitting, getting in and out of chairs properly, keeping an activity and positive thought journal daily and also paying a visit to their physician to receive an activity release. I also have made myself available in a few instances to discuss the concerns the physicians had regarding my clients. Very rewarding experience working hand in hand with their doctor, it’s always nice to have reinforcement when helping clients make lifestyle changes.
Definitely start with simple things like walking, biking or a fun low impact class. But be sure that it as an activity that gives you time to encourage them or allows them to see fitness as being fun. Build their belief in themselves to continue their journey to healthier life. Don’t be afraid to probe deeper into their ‘reason’ for choosing now to improve their health, connect them to their ‘why’ and they’ll stick with the program and you for taking a true interest in them as a person, not just a client.
I have to assume that these people don’t have medical conditions. If they do then you need to stop and address these concerns and conditions first.
So, if they just haven’t moved they probably don’t like to move. You need to make things easy and enjoyable. You will need to be the sunshine. Keep it simple, walking, stepping up and down, using a chair to stand up from and sit back on. Watch the sit and be fit videos.
The most important thing is to do things they like to do… play music they like, if they like being in a pool and have access get them in the pool. The goal is really simple get them to move without them being sore the next day. They need to “enjoy” movement. I find that people who don’t like to move or haven’t moved much need a lot of “mental” coaching.