Exercise is an essential part of a healthy life, yet many of us fail to get enough. Whether it’s due to a busy lifestyle, lack of enthusiasm or fear of failure, our lack of physical activity is one of the reasons for the current obesity epidemic. Is it possible to change a long-term sedentary habit into a desire to get up and get moving? How can you make exercise an enjoyable part of everyday life?
How Much Exercise?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week OR 75 minutes of high intensity aerobic activity per week for adults between the ages of 18 and 64. 150 minutes may sound like a lot but it’s only two and a half hours — about the time it might take you to watch a film.
A Worrying Statistic
Despite the relatively small amount of exercise recommended, the WHO’s latest statistics indicate that 32.1 percent of adults in the United States are not exercising sufficiently.
A sedentary lifestyle is linked to many life threatening health issues. Add to that inactivity a modern diet of processed foods and you have the perfect conditions for high blood pressure, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer and depression.
The Importance of Exercise
The link between mind and body has long been scientifically established, and yet it seems many of us have not taken this important information on board. The risks of a sedentary lifestyle cannot be ignored; exercising regularly will help you to avoid years of health complications and hospital visits, and give you a better chance of living a long healthy happy life, able to do all the things you enjoy. Exercise is vital for both mind and body and provides many health benefits the likes of which improve quality of life and increase longevity.
- Improved blood pressure
- Stronger muscles and bones
- Lower risk of Type 2 diabetes
- Lower risk of obesity / improved weight control
- Lower risk of certain cancers — particularly colon, breast and lung cancers (exercise also improves chances of recovery)
- Lower risk of cardiovascular disease
- Lower risk of suffering from falls in later life
- Sharper mental focus
- Clearer memory
- Lower risk of depression
- Improved cognitive ability
- Happier mood
The Foundations: Motivation and Planning
Sometimes, knowing something is good for us isn’t enough to propel us into action. In order to truly commit to new habits you need to set solid foundations for them.
What Will You Gain?
Make a list of all that you will gain when you start exercising. What do you want to achieve, and why? Is it a healthier weight, fitting into those pre-pregnancy dresses, or simply to feel fitter, to be able to play with your children without getting out of breath, or perhaps wanting to learn a new sport? Writing your motivations for exercise will reinforce your desire and willpower to change.
Need extra motivation to exercise? A fitness tracker is a great way to keep track of your efforts and keep you on target to reach your fitness goals, whatever they are.
Write Down Your Goals
Be realistic, depending on your current fitness level you may want to work your way up to the WHO’s guidelines, or they may be your starting point. Set clear deadlines so you have something specific to work towards. Writing down your goals will help strengthen them in your mind.
Work Out Your Excuses in Advance
Write down a list of all the potential excuses you might have for not exercising; for example not having the time, not having the right clothes to wear or not feeling motivated. Decide that regardless of the excuses, you will make a conscious effort to exercise anyway. By thinking in advance about the reasons you might give yourself to avoid working out, you’ll be less likely to succumb to the temptation.
Failing to plan is planning to fail — this is certainly true when it comes to working out. Your mind may come up with all manner of excuses why you can’t exercise today, unless you have planned ahead. 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week equates to just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. You can split this into three short 10-minute workouts. Make an exercise planner and use it to schedule exercise around your usual activities.
Forging a Life-Long Habit
For exercise to effortlessly become part of your day to day life, it has to be something you enjoy doing — a fun activity rather than a chore.
Don’t Do Too Much Too Soon
Start with exercises that feel good and comfortable to do and build on that. If you can comfortably walk five minutes, do five squats, or swim one length of the pool, start there and slowly build up to walking longer or faster, increasing reps, swimming further. Starting an exercise habit with too much intensity can lead to discouragement and you’ll be more likely to give up. Make gradual changes, and take adequate rest days from more intense exercising.
Make a Note of Your Achievements
When you embark on your journey to a fitter you, make a note of how many repetitions you can do or how long you can walk. Monitor your progress and notice the improvements. You can do this with a pen and paper or use one of the many health and fitness monitors on the market. From wristbands that track your physical activity to smartphone apps that count your steps, there’s a fitness gadget for everyone. Use your progress to build your self-esteem. Allow yourself to feel proud of your achievements.
Be Kind to Yourself
It’s ok to miss a session, but it’s not ok to beat yourself up over it or spend hours feeling guilty. Look at it as an opportunity to review what happened and plan strategies to avoid it happening again. You’re human; it’s ok if you miss one workout. Holding on to feelings of guilt or upset will only make you feel unhappier and less likely to exercise next time.
Nutrition Is Important
You’ll want to give your body an extra boost of nutrients if you’re increasing your physical activity. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet, as well as complex carbohydrates and lean protein. Remember to drink extra water during your workouts.
Don’t Go Alone
Do any of your friends or family want to start exercising? Working out together is more enjoyable and you’ll be able to keep each other motivated. Alternatively, you can enlist the help of a personal trainer who will tailor a fitness regime to suit your personal needs and goals.
Exercise is highly beneficial to both mind and body. The hard part is taking that first step — deciding that you want to make new positive habits to lead a healthier lifestyle. With a focused and gentle approach, taking it one day at the time, you can make exercise a natural part of your life, and reap the many health benefits.References