Recently a client asked me how important exercise is to overall health. My answer, “It is critical.” He then asked what I meant by critical. I paused and answered, “like life or death critical.” Not to sound overly dramatic, but it is true.
For those of you who don’t love to exercise or have had trouble making it a regular part of your daily routine this may be a little hard to hear. It is true though. Our bodies were made to move and as a society we do way too much sitting. Heard the stat that sitting is the new smoking? The impact of our sedentary lifestyles is real and substantial.
The reality though is that starting to incorporate exercise more can be challenging, especially when it is a new habit. Here are some tips for squeezing exercise in and making it happen consistently.
Have a Backup Plan – Obstacles will present themselves. You can expect it. It will happen. The key is to have a plan for that obstacle before it arises. Some examples of obstacles might be weather, like late afternoon rain in the Summer, the heat of the Summer, the cold of the Winter, and busy schedules. It is important to have some sort of plan ahead of time when these things, or others, get in your way. If you love to walk outside, but weather consistently gets in your way then having a backup plan is key. Having a treadmill or elliptical at your house is always a great option or having some sort of app or workout you can do from home is also good. The key is to make moving, on pretty much a daily basis, part of your consistent routine.
Group classes can give you an indoor option too. You don’t necessarily have to have a year-long membership to a big box gym, many places offer drop in rates. Check out the app called MINDBODY to see all the options for classes in your area, ranging from yoga and barre, to zumba and high intensity interval training and everything in between.
Make an Appointment– Scheduling what you will do exercise wise for the week, in advance, can go a long way in making it happen. Life has a way of getting in the way of our plans to take care of ourselves no matter how good our intentions are. By looking at your schedule for the week ahead, say on Sunday, and planning out your activity you make it more likely to happen. I keep up with my calendar on my phone, but maybe you may keep a written planner, whatever way you choose just make exercise and moving your body a priority like any other appointment or meeting you have through the week. Put it in your calendar. That MINDBODY app I mentioned will add the classes you register for on to your calendar as part of your schedule. A pretty cool feature. You and your health are important and making time for that, above all else, is critical.
Pick Your Exercise Time Wisely– Some say that you should exercise first thing in the morning. Yes, it is true that leaving exercise for later in the day leaves more opportunity for excuses to be made and things to come up that get in your way. More power to you if you can do that and keep it up consistently. But, if you have tried getting up at 5 am and it just isn’t working for you, don’t just give up. Figure out another time and make it happen. Maybe it is during your lunch hour or right after work before you head home. If you choose right after work, make sure you bring your clothes, shoes, and a snack with you so you aren’t tempted to go home and sit on the couch instead. Just know that first thing in the morning is awesome and a great option, but not your only option.
Don’t Skip Monday– I love this tip and find it to really help me personally. The way you start your week is likely to impact how the rest of the week pans out. I recently started doing Orange Theory workouts. I love it most of the time but there are days that I really have to make myself go. It’s tough, but I always feel better, stronger, and more fit after. I’ve found though that it is key to get that first workout in on Monday. When I can get that under my belt it just seems to start my week off right. Starting your week off on the right path is a good way to set a positive, active frame of mind for the rest of the week.
Be Careful to Not Overdo It– A lot of times people approach exercise as an all or nothing thing, going from not exercising at all to starting some really intense program or heading out the door to run a couple of miles. It’s great to be motivated and want to get started, but the smartest way to approach activity when you are starting out is to set a reasonable goal, do that consistently, and then add from there. If you go all out right out of the gate you risk injury and also getting burned out quickly. Gradually adding time, number of days, and intensity as you feel stronger and more capable is the best approach for making exercise a longer lasting lifestyle habit.
Find What You Enjoy Doing– This may be the most important tip of all. If you hate the gym or hate running find something else you enjoy doing more. I have mentioned in a previous blog that I am not a runner. I tried one time and trained and did a half marathon, but figured out running is just not my thing. Even though I am very active and love it, If someone told me the only exercise I could do was run I might not ever exercise again. I have found the things I love doing and so I make sure to stick with those instead. If you force yourself to do something you hate doing you are likely going to quit doing it eventually. Instead, get curious about what you get enjoyment out of when it comes to physical activity and do it!
If you’ve been struggling with making physical activity a more consistent part of your life, I encourage you to try one of these tips. Moving more and fitting physical activityin is truly a must for being healthy long term.