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Fitness as your body fluctuates


We all know exercise is good for us, but working out - it can be hard. And when there are setbacks, injury, illness or whatever life throws your way, it can be really discouraging. The thing is, you don't have to be a superhero to get more fit. Little goals can be as important as big ones. And gardening, running errands, playing with your kids - thankfully, all of that counts as movement. For NPR's Life Kit podcast, reporter Aja Drain brings us some tips about how to weave exercise into your life, no matter how your life changes.

AJA DRAIN, BYLINE: As a lifelong dancer, I was devastated to be couch-ridden for months after a back injury. But while scrolling through TikTok, I found a personal trainer who really spoke to me.


SAMANTHA SALVAGGIO: With a chronic illness, being able to move your body may not always be the easiest. It may not move in the way you want it to. It may tire quickly. But moving with intention makes a difference in your physical, mental and emotional well-being.

DRAIN: That's Samantha Salvaggio, an NASM-certified personal trainer, patient leader and behavior change specialist. Salvaggio was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and had to change her relationship with exercise. My injury is temporary and vastly different from her lifelong condition, but Salvaggio's insights made me realize that no matter what your condition, our bodies all go through changes at some point. She says to design an adaptable fitness plan, put the big goals on the back burner and focus on the smaller ones day to day.

SALVAGGIO: If you're focusing on - just on the end result, it can be really hard to see, like, the small progress that you're making throughout that can really just serve as motivation versus just focusing on the end result and then being discouraged that you're not there.

DRAIN: Salvaggio says think about it like this - one step at a time can still get you to your goal.

SALVAGGIO: If you just take off a sheet of paper towel off of a roll every day, you're not going to really notice any change. Like, it's so small you won't notice. But then over the course of a month, you're going to run out of paper towels.

DRAIN: We know that the key to progress in fitness is consistency. So to stay motivated, try tracking all of your movement activities not just your workouts. Physical activity is defined as any movement not just exercise workouts, according to the National Health Interview Survey. Cleaning the house, running errands, gardening, going for a run, lifting weights - it all matters, and it all adds up. Salvaggio kept a little planner where she wrote down everything.

SALVAGGIO: Being able to, like, look back that week or that month and see all these little times that I moved just was really empowering because it's, like, wow, that's a promise I'm keeping to myself. And it was more motivating to, like, continue.

DRAIN: Before you know it, those small goals become the big ones you had sitting on the back burner this whole time. And even if you have setbacks, Salvaggio says when you're trying to bounce back, don't try to overdo it. Start small.

SALVAGGIO: Let's just do five minutes and start and then see how we feel after that. Sometimes I'll go for another five minutes and then end up stopping. Sometimes I end up doing the whole thing. And then other times it's just like, no, this is not the thing today.

DRAIN: And that's OK. You'll get to where you want to go, but you have to meet yourself where you are first. For NPR News, I'm Aja Drain.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Aja Drain