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Getting the pep back in your step after a long stint of inactivity takes more than a good attitude and step counter. In fact, going at it gung-ho can cause injuries and set you back a few steps before you’ve even begun.

Whether you’ve recovered from an injury and been given the all-clear to get moving, or you finally admitted to spending far too much time on your couch than on your feet, getting active after being inactive needs some planning and patience.

What happens when you’re not active?

The wonder of the human body is largely attributed to our movements, from walking and running, to lifting and stretching. Through our action, we build muscle, flexibility, and overall health. Through our inaction, we lose our strength (within weeks), our cardiovascular function declines, and we start to become shells of our former healthy selves.

This makes movement – any movement – essential for our wellbeing.

Set small goals

When you haven’t been moving much, any movement is a win! It can be as simple as small walks around your house, doing one piece of housework such as vacuuming, or even sitting down and standing up from a chair a few times a day, switching from one leg to the other.

Through these small actions, you’re beginning to build up your fitness and strength, activate muscles that have atrophied through lack of use, and you’ll find you’re able to do more and push further every day. Your small walks will turn into walks around the block and moving will become easier and easier as your body remembers what to do.

Know your limits

Listen to your body and learn to recognise when/if certain movements or exercises cause pain. General soreness and fatigue will be completely normal when getting back into the swing of things and can be a good sign that you’re working muscles that have been dormant for a while. But sharp or acute pains specific to certain areas that potentially hinder your efforts for days might be a sign that your body isn’t ready for that type of movement yet.

If this is the case, reel it back in, avoid the aggravating movement, and focus on the actions you can do.

Pay attention to what you eat

There are foods that offer incredible nutritional value and support for going from sedentary to spritely, then there are foods that someone conveniently brings to your door at the push of a button and offer your body nothing but a moment of fleeting happiness.

Opt for foods that are going to assist in your efforts such as lean proteins in chicken and pork to promote healthy muscle gain. Eat omega 3 fatty acid foods such as fish, avocado, and nuts to help ease any inflammation and promote healthy joints. Finally, go for some low-GI carbohydrates such as lentils, beans, and oats to increase energy levels you’ll be burning through activity.