It is extremely hard to break bad habits and takes a long time to start new, healthy ones. It takes 21 days for a new habit to form, so a lot of the time people tell me that they get discouraged and go back to their old habits. Life gets busy. So often I speak with women who work full-time, raise a family, and don’t believe that they have enough time to cook healthy meals or workout. There’s a misconception that fitness needs to be done at a gym and take a up a real portion of your day-to-day life. A lot of people don’t realize that the small life changes can all add up to big results, and therefore they never incorporate workouts into their routine.
As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure to interview Denise Austin. Denise Austin, fitness icon, has been helping individuals worldwide as an influential health and fitness professional for 40 years. Known for her legendary at-home workouts, her accomplishments include publishing 12 books, selling 25 million exercise videos and DVDs, and hosting the longest running fitness show in history. Denise inspires women each day to find their happiness and make small life changes to keep them feeling young, fit, and naturally fabulous. Today, Denise commonly speaks to a 40 plus audience, and her motto “Progress Not Perfect” reinforces her view to stay positive while altering health practices.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Denise! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?
Iwas always involved in fitness. As a child, I was a gymnast and would practice every day for 5 hours — which lead to a full athletic scholarship to college. I went to the University of Arizona and received a degree in exercise physiology with an emphasis in physical education. But it wasn’t until I met Jack LaLanne, who gave me my start on TV, that my career in fitness really took off.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I have had a long career, so it is a bit difficult to narrow down! But I would say that the most interesting thing that happened to me throughout my career was when I was given the opportunity to have my own daily on-air workout show. I was on air during the VHS age of media, and then through the DVD age and now people workout with me on my site, DeniseAustin.com, and on YouTube. It’s interesting to see that evolution.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
The biggest lesson I learned in my early days was to stay persistent. It took 35 phone calls to get onto the Today Show and I never gave up. I just kept persisting — in a nice, friendly way, of course!
Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?
I went to the University of Arizona on a full athletic scholarship for gymnastics, where I competed and got 9th in the nation at the NCAA’s. I received my degree in exercise physiology with an emphasis in physical education, and I have been very lucky that my career has spanned the 40 years since.
My unique contribution to the fitness industry is bringing fitness into the home through cable, VHS, DVD and now digital formats. I have sold over 25 million copies of my at-home workout classes and hosted the longest running fitness show in American history.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I will always be grateful to Jack LaLanne. He introduced me to the world of fitness television and sparked my love for sharing my workouts. He was my mentor and friend for many, many years.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?
It is extremely hard to break bad habits and takes a long time to start new, healthy ones. It takes 21 days for a new habit to form, so a lot of the time people tell me that they get discouraged and go back to their old habits.
Life gets busy. So often I speak with women who work full-time, raise a family, and don’t believe that they have enough time to cook healthy meals or workout.
There’s a misconception that fitness needs to be done at a gym and take a up a real portion of your day-to-day life. A lot of people don’t realize that the small life changes can all add up to big results, and therefore they never incorporate workouts into their routine.
Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)
Wake up 10 minutes earlier: This is an easy one! Try setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier in the morning and utilize that extra time for a quick morning walk or a few at home stretches!
Don’t get discouraged: Research shows that it takes 21 days for habits to stick. Don’t get discouraged if after a week you want to fall back into your old habits, give yourself time to truly make the change.
Incorporate workout into your daily routine: I always recommend stretching and doing exercises while doing other daily activities! You can do squats while folding laundry, or pushups against the counter while waiting for water to boil!
Try not to think of working out as a chore: The beauty of the at-home workout is that you can do it on your own time and in your own space.
Working out is so much more than just a way to lose weight. It boosts your energy, strengthens your bones, and helps with heart health. You will have a far healthier relationship with fitness if you don’t always have to worry about a number on a scale.
As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?
The first biggest benefit of daily exercise is that it boosts oxygen through your body which will give you energy. The second biggest benefit is that it helps naturally relieve stress and gives your mind and body something else to focus on that isn’t your anxiety. The third thing is that exercising boosts your endorphins and gives you happy hormones, which helps boost your mood.
For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?
The Pushup: I always recommend the pushup to help build upper body strength and to help improve posture. The pushup can be as easy as pushing up against a kitchen countertop or a dining room table, or as difficult as the traditional floor pushup.
The Bicycle: The old-fashioned bicycle is one of my favorites! You lay down like you are doing a sit-up and then kick your legs in the air as if you were peddling a bike. To make it more difficult, do a crunch and twist towards your knee while you bring it to your chest. This will work out your entire core and abs!
The Squat: The squat works your hips, thighs and buttocks. When done with the pushup and the bicycle, you are working out all three of the major sections of muscles.
In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?
I recommend that you take it slow and try really hard not to get too discouraged. I always recommend that people start with a plank. If you are getting back into working out and need to take it slow, you can go down to your elbows and do it in quick 5–10 second intervals. The plank will stretch out your entire body and is a wonderful full body exercise.
There are so many different diets today. Can you share what kind of diet you follow? Which diet do you recommend to most of your clients?
I like to tell people to eat well 80% of the time and indulge 20% of the time. Good eating habits and well balanced meals are important, but I like to remind the people who are following me that you can enjoy a glass of wine or a piece of chocolate from time to time. It’s all about moderation!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would ask everyone to get on their feet and go for a walk! It’s so important for everyone, especially those over the age of 40, to have some sort of exercise routine in their life. Walking is easy for most people to adopt into their lifestyle, regardless of their current level of fitness. Plus is convenient and fun!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
A saying that I have always lived by is “Get fit, because you deserve it!” It’s what I tell women every time they come up to me and ask how I continue to stay motivated. We all deserve to feel fit and fabulous!
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I would love to meet and talk with Bono! I love his music, his attitude, his philanthropy and his message. He’d be my go-to breakfast date!
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