Session 5:
Physical Activity

Traps to Avoid

There are a few common mistake people make when they start to increase activity.

  • “I now can eat more because I’m burning more calories.” It is SO tempting to think this, especially since the extra activity can make you more hungry. But that kind of thinking can easily lead you to eat and drink many more calories than you just burned off.
  • “This physical activity isn’t helping since I’m not seeing extra weight loss.” Even though the impact on your weight may be hard to see, try to remember that the physical activity is also lowering your blood pressure, stress and blood sugar. In other words, if your goal is to live longer, the activity is helping regardless of what the scale says.
  • “I got my exercise this morning so I’m done for the day.” Your body doesn’t work like that. Getting even brief activity a few times throughout the day helps your body reduce glucose and cholesterol and helps you brain get more oxygen.

It can be challenging to get active. People that make it happen usually are successful because they’ve learned how to overcome obstacles. This is not because they have more willpower than others, but because they have thought in advance about what challenges are most likely to come up. Once identified, they are able to figure out what specific thing they will do to overcome that challenge. For example, let’s say your action plan is “I will walk for 20 minutes in the evening.” What’s going to prevent you from sticking to that plan? Is it always TV time after dinner? If so, then the TV is your challenge. Turning on the TV needs to instead become a trigger for a different behavior or habit, like walking in place for 20 minutes while you watch or if you have an exercise machine at home, using that while you watch.


The other extra helpful technique is to have a reward in mind for doing or accomplishing your goal. For physical activity, it can be really helpful to choose a reward you enjoy during the activity. For example, if you like reality TV shows, then you might choose physical activity that you can do while watching TV and then make a rule that you can ONLY watch reality TV while you’re exercising. Or you might choose to listen to podcasts or an audiobook of a really addictive story. The key is to ONLY get to enjoy this fun, addictive show or story during your exercise that way you look forward to it. A lot of people find this technique really helps them stick to their action plans.


Now with these techniques in mind, please create a SMART goal or action plan around physical activity. Be sure to think very concretely about the challenges you’re likely to run into and write down both the challenge and how you will overcome it. Then include a reward like we just talked about so you have more incentive to do it.

In a couple of minutes we’re going to build a plan for how to do your preferred activity. But first, let’s review some key tips to keep In mind to ensure you are safe while being more physically active:

  • Drink water before, during, and after your workout, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
  • Listen to your body. Slow down or stop if you feel very tired, sick, faint, or have pain.
  • Do a variety of activities. This will help prevent you from straining any one part of your body.
  • Start small. If you train too hard or too often, you may get hurt.


In certain instances, you will want to make sure to see your healthcare provider BEFORE you get active, such as:

  • You’re over 50 and planning to be very active, but haven’t been active in a long time.
  • You’ve had recent chest pain or you have a heart problem.
  • You take medicine for high blood pressure or a heart problem.
  • You have pain or pressure in your neck, left shoulder or arm during or after a workout.


Now let’s spend a moment to come up with a goal and action plan for how, when and where you are going to do the physical activity you chose a few minutes ago. We recommend doing at least 60 minutes of activity this week, or start with what you can do. Be sure your plan is realistic, doable, specific and flexible. You can use the SMART goal worksheet to do this. After this video is finished, please reach out to your coach in the Expert channel to set your goal. 

Action items for the week:
  • Plan and log your meals
  • Stick to your healthy snacks
  • Do your new planned physical activity at least four days
A picture of Health Coach Emily smiling for the camera
Reviewed by Emily Matson, MS, RDN​

on June 22, 2020. Emily is a Registered Dietitian with her Master's degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA, and is one of our Brook Experts.