Exercise for Everyone: Adapting Exercise to Meet Your Needs

May 1, 2024
Webinar Q&A

View the Webinar Recording


Key Webinar Takeaways

  1. Exercise is for everyone!
  2. Baby steps can work
  3. Tiny exercise behaviors can build lasting habits

Consult with a healthcare professional before starting or modifying an exercise routine if you are currently inactive or have any risk factors that may affect your ability to exercise safely.

Physical Activity Recommendations for Lowering Risk for Diabetes

Moderate to vigorous intensity exercise

  • At least 150 minutes per week
  • Guideline: moderate-intensity activity increases your heart rate and makes it difficult to talk in complete sentences
  • “Walk, run, dance, or play…what’s your move?”

Muscle-strengthening exercise

  • Also known as strength training or weight training
  • Each muscle group, 2-3 sets, 2-3 times per week

Exercise Is for Everyone

Start (or restart) low, go slow

More than 100 million adults have chronic pain like knee or other joint paint, arthritis, or back pain. That’s more than 1 in 3 adults - maybe even you! It’s important to adapt exercise to your own needs and to stay within any limitations you may have.

Ditch the all-or-nothing attitude! - even a few minutes of activity has health benefits, even if you aren’t hitting the recommendations yet

Self-Determination Theory - Your Exercise Plan Is All About YOU!

Autonomy - select exercises and activities that work for you

Competence - success breeds success, so set goals that you can achieve

Relatedness - integrate your activities and goals into your life by telling others about your goals or finding a workout buddy

Tiny Habits as a Way to Establish Lasting Exercise Habits

Baby steps: take small steps to get you closer to larger changes

Fogg Model: Motivation, Ability, and Prompt

  • Motivation - Reasons to want to perform the behavior, 
  • Ability: The ability to e
  • Prompt - Cue or trigger to 

The ABC approach to Tiny Habits

  • “A” for “Anchor” moment, or the prompt that reminds you to do the new behavior. For example, opening the fridge
  • “B” for Tiny “Behavior” The simplest version of the desired behavior, done immediately after the Anchor Moment, for example, eating a baby carrot
  • “C” for “Celebrate” immediately after doing the new behavior, such as noticing positive emotions to help lock in the behavior as a new habit, for example, adding a gold star to a chart

Habit stacking can help establish anchor moments by attaching a new tiny step to a habit (“anchor” habit) that you already do. Here are some examples.

  • Eating a vegetable snack when you watch television
  • Watch television (anchor) and eat a vegetable (tiny step)
  • Use the bathroom (anchor) and stretching for a few minutes (tiny step)
  • Skincare and tooth brushing routine (anchor) and bedtime routine (tiny step)

Sample Tiny Habits

These are some ideas that can get you started.

  • “After I brush my teeth, I will do two countertop push-ups”
  • “Before I open the fridge door, I will do 5 banded squats (hang band on fridge door)”
  • “After I turn the coffee/tea pot on, I will do one Sun Salutation”
  • “Every time I stand up, I will stretch each quad for 5 seconds”
  • “Every time I wash dishes, I will do 10 calf raises”
  • “Every time I check my email, I will get up and walk for 250 steps (~2.5 minutes)”

Get Started!

  • Identify and implement a new tiny habit today!
  • Over time, increase the difficulty of the habit (e.g., increase the number of push-ups)
  • Always keep it easy to do, and remember that the definition of “easy” changes as your skills increase

Health Coach Q & A

Are we going to receive a handout once the webinar is done?

You can always come to the Lark webinar hub and see recent webinar recordings, summaries, and question and answer sessions. 

Is there another link for the Facebook group.  I tried it on my browser and phone and it appears to be broken.

Here is the link to the group

If the link does not work for you:

  • The group is called “Lark Diabetes Prevention Program” and you can find it if you search in Facebook.
  • It is a private group, so you will need to submit a request to join the group. You can submit your request when you go to the link above.
  • Feel free to open a ticket with Lark Customer Service for further assistance.

What does DPP stand for?

Great question! It’s “Diabetes Prevention Program.” Lark DPP is a program to help people to lose weight and make healthy lifestyle changes to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

I need technical help to collect exercise data from my android phone and food logging from my iPad.


Off topic, but my Lark scale is not uploading to Lark. I have done the reset, changed batteries etc, still no luck.

Please open a ticket with Lark Customer Service for technical support and app support!

Can you please provide the links that you showed in the webinar?

Absolutely! Here are a few great resources where you can find different types of exercises.

The ONE Group (Oncology – Nutrition – Exercise) from the Penn State College of Medicine provides exercise videos that can be done from home without any special equipment required.

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) provides an exercise library of videos demonstrating correct form using a variety of external resistance types.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) exercise database and library contains a large selection of exercises grouped by body part and at varying levels of difficulty. 

Do you have recommendations for people with ruptured discs in their spine and very very low current exercise routine?

Get clearance from your doctor to fully understand your personal limitations! I also highly recommend working with a physical therapist (at least for a few sessions) if you haven’t done so yet. In general, avoid loading the spine. This means no weights on your back (e.g., a barbell) and preferably minimal sitting exercises since these also load the spine. Standing with good posture and using body weight, bands, and equipment like TRX are good places to start. Deep core exercises that work on stabilization and breathing techniques are important. Avoid excessive bending or twisting motions. Also look for exercises that strengthen the glutes and hip musculature (e.g., glute bridge, clamshells, standing hip abduction and extension). 

For cardio, avoid high impact exercises like running and jumping. Walking should be safe with supportive shoes. Leverage hills to increase intensity and focus on uphill (be careful going downhill due to the increased impact). Water-based exercises and machines like the elliptical or a stair climber are also great choices. 

Is there a safe way to do exercises to work on your core with spinal injury and sciatic nerve damage?

See the above response! For the sciatic nerve portion, stretching and trigger point release (e.g., foam rolling) are particularly helpful, especially for muscles around the hips. Look into exercises that relieve tension in the piriformis muscle. Avoid (or be careful with) movements that involve forward bending and exercises that place pressure on your spine. 

I have a bone spur on my bottom right foot, I used to be able to walk and now that's too painful. What are some other options for staying off my foot but still getting exercise?

Cardio ideas include seated bike ergometer, seated “running arms” for a no-equipment option, rowing machine, or battling ropes (this one is great cardio, and you can purchase lightweight beginner ropes at a low cost). Focus on strength training since most of these options are feasible with a bone spur. Use machines if you have access to a gym or bands if at home. Perform lower body movements one leg at a time to make sure you don’t compensate and shift weight off your affected foot. 

I have a weak right hip. Keeps range movement limited.

Focus on hip strengthening exercises for commonly weak muscles involved in hip extension and abduction. Exercise ideas include glute bridges, lateral walks with a band, standing hip extensions with a band, side lying abduction and clamshells, and bird dogs. Perform exercises one side at a time so that your stronger side does not compensate for the weaker side. Balance exercises that focus on hip alignment are another great option to incorporate. 

Do I have to do a certain exercise on certain days ie: strength, cardio... or as long as I'm exercising that's good?

In the beginning, as long as you’re exercising, that’s good! Ultimately, it’s a good goal to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic and 2 days a week of strength training). You can do cardio and strength training on the same day or different days. You can also combine them (such as in circuit training when you go from one strength training exercise to another without taking breaks between them) or do them separately. 

Even once you get close to hitting these recommended thresholds there is research that shows even the “weekend warrior” types that fit all of the recommended exercise in on weekends experience similar health benefits as those who spread exercise out throughout the week. But, keep in mind that this pattern of activity increases risk for injury. In terms of habit formation, finding ways to sneak in as much activity as possible to your routine day may be the most sustainable. Implement some tiny habits and see how it goes! 

What do you consider exercise?

I would define physical activity as anything that improves cardiorespiratory and/or musculoskeletal health. Exercise should be more intense and be of at least moderate effort. A 4-6 rating of perceived exertion (RPE), 64-76% max heart rate, being able to talk but not sing, and walking between 100-120 steps min (or 2.5-4 mph) are all considered moderate intensity.

What if I just simply don't feel like exercising feels good? More like in a mentally/emotional way?

The best suggestion is to start working toward changing this response (it becomes wired and can be unwired)! Try emphasizing the celebration aspect of the tiny habit approach. Pick really small behaviors that require low effort and practice commending yourself for doing them. Over time, you may find that you start to look forward to the praise you give yourself, and in time, that feeling can help change your overall feelings toward exercise. 

Can you recommend a good free video home stretching and weight lifting series for 65+ women?

Check out the below resources. Also, take a look at Silver Sneakers for additional ideas and resources. It’s part of Medicare.  

Is a 5-minute exercise good enough when getting started?

Absolutely, any amount of exercise is a great way to get started. I would suggest scheduling it as tiny habits, however, rather than one 5-minute chunk to ensure that it is sustainable! Also, from our webinar, we reviewed a study that showed as few as 500 additional steps/day lowered cardiovascular mortality by 7%. 500 steps = about 5 minutes of walking! 

Will using a seated elliptical really help you lose weight?

In general, exercise alone won’t help considerably with weight loss. Seated elliptical doesn’t burn that many calories since it’s sitting and not very intense. However, any movement is good for breaking up sedentary time and for improving cardiovascular health. 

Exercise is essential for good health and works in conjunction with good nutrition to optimize your body composition (more muscle, less fat). If a seated elliptical is what you are able to do right now, it is a good place to start. It will help build your cardiovascular stamina and, if you add resistance, help strengthen your lower body. Your improved fitness level will enable you to branch out to include other exercises. 

How much protein before and after workouts

Good question! We hear a lot about protein and exercise. Protein is crucial for muscle repair and recovery, but there’s good news: there's a lot of leeway in how and when you get your protein!

In general, it's not crucial to get specific amounts of protein before and after workouts as long as you're hitting your daily protein requirements. That's about 0.4 grams of protein per day per pound of body weight, or 80 grams a day if you weigh 200 lb. The average American gets more than that amount. 

Athletes and people who train intensely may need up to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Most people don't train hard enough to require much extra protein.

Having about 10 grams of protein before you work out, as part of a snack or small meal with some carbohydrates, can provide nutrients that your body can use for muscle repair. Having 20-30 grams of protein within 1-2 hours after a workout, as part of a post-workout snack or meal with carbohydrates, can also help with recovery.

However, a few other factors also affect the best time to consume protein relative to when you work out. If you prefer working out on an empty stomach, it’s okay not to have protein before you work out. Research suggests that while protein right after a workout can speed recovery and boost muscle synthesis after that workout, the net effects over a period of months aren’t so dependent on timing of protein consumption. That is, generally, the most important thing long-term is to get enough protein on a daily basis.

Is it ok to eat before a workout or should I wait till after?

That’s a great question! Fueling your body right can help you feel better during your workout - just like fueling your body right can help you feel better all the time!

Whenever you choose to eat relative to your workout, it’s important to fit your meals and snacks into your calorie budget instead of adding extra foods to your day. That will help with weight loss. 

The answer to this is individualized. The right answer for you depends on a lot of factors, including personal preference.

There are a lot of factors to consider.

  • Hunger - if hunger bothers you, it’s okay to eat before working out
  • Dizziness or shakiness - talk to a healthcare provider to rule out other causes, but these can show that you have low blood sugar and may mean you need a snack with some carbohydrates before you eat
  • Stomach issues - some people are unable to comfortably eat before they work out, so they wait until afterwards
  • How much to eat - a small snack is different than a large meal
  • Hydration - whether or not you eat before a workout, it’s important to hydrate beforehand and afterwards
  • Exercise intensity - if you exercise intensely for a long time, such as running for over 60-90 minutes, you may want to plan for a snack with carbohydrates and protein after you work out to speed recovery

You can use trial-and-error to find out what works best for you. These are some various options to consider trying.

  • Not eating before a workout
  • Eating a small snack, about 100-200 calories, about 15-60 minutes before a workout
  • Eating a larger snack, about 200-300 calories, about 1-2 hours before you work out
  • Eating a small meal, about 400 calories, about 2-3 hours before you work out

You can also try various options with post-workout fueling, like planning to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner immediately after you work out, or planning your workout before a snack. 

If you have any concerns with fueling or exercise, be sure to talk to a healthcare provider.

Whether you eat before or after your workout depends on your personal preference, as well as your body's response to food and exercise. Here are some considerations for both options:

I get dizzy in the morning at the gym. Should I eat something before?

First of all, please talk to your healthcare provider! Dizziness can be a sign of an issue that requires medical attention or has underlying causes that need to be determined!

After getting clearance from your healthcare provider to keep exercising, it’s possible to feel dizzy if blood sugar is low. That may be more likely if you’re exercising in the morning and don’t eat before, or if you’re exercising later in the day and haven’t eaten in a while. 

If that’s the case, it can be a good idea to eat a light snack 15-45 minutes before you start working out. Include about 15-30 grams of carbohydrates. Avoid too much fat or protein because those can be tougher on your stomach when you’re exercising. 

In addition, check your hydration. It’s a good idea to stay hydrated throughout the day. Drink an extra 8-16 ounces of water within the hour before you work out. If you’re working out in the morning, it’s important to drink as soon as you wake up. Dehydration can lead to weakness or feeling dizzy. 

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