Fitting in Physical Activity
Identify your motivator
Find your motivation for exercise by thinking of some of the benefits you get from activity. Of course, we all know the health benefits but physical activity is also a natural stress reliever and antidepressant. Being more active improves your mood, energy level, and self-confidence too.
When you're in a better mood, have more energy and are less stressed, you probably have other benefits like improved relationships with your spouse and better sleep. Sometimes these are better motivators for activity than the health benefits like managing blood sugar, blood pressure, and weight.
Find something you enjoy! There are literally hundreds of possible ways to be physically active. If you dread the idea of exercise, think about how you are defining it. No wonder it sounds like a punishment if your idea of exercise is running on a treadmill, which is something you despise. Although many people do enjoy this activity, this picture of exercise is often the first image that comes to mind for lots of folks.
If you find something you actually enjoy doing, the chances of you doing it more regularly and keeping it up will skyrocket. For ideas, consider your local surroundings for things like hiking trails, bike paths, swimming, rock climbing, water sports, etc. Look into community groups and clubs. Think about some things you always wanted to try, such as dance classes or martial arts.
Use an anchor
Using an anchor means tying the behavior of physical activity to another activity or task that you are already doing. For example, take a walk around the parking lot before you leave work, or stop at the park on your way home, or fit it in while watching your child/grandchild’s sporting events. Think about doing some activity while watching television during commercials, try stretches, squats, marching in place, etc.
Doing an activity with a friend or a loved one has many benefits. Having a workout buddy or walking partner makes the experience that much more enjoyable and often times takes your mind off the more arduous activity. It helps keep you accountable to your activity schedule; it’s less likely that you will cancel on plans to exercise with a friend or loved one, while it's easy to cancel on yourself. It can help to rev up your efforts if you and your partner are more competitive. And, since you are fitting in both exercise and social time, it is a great way to kill two birds with one stone (both of these are great ways to boost your mental health too).
Scale your activity
Don’t fall victim to the idea that you have to devote large blocks of time to exercise, or that it has to be a high-intensity activity to gain any value from exercise. These are false! The reality is that something is better than nothing and, consistency is key. This means that getting in a 10-minute walk on 5 days per week is better than one 50 minute walk per week.
Plus, you don’t have to do some kind of boot camp or intense exercise, leaving you drenched in sweat to feel the benefits of physical activity. Every kind of activity is beneficial and it is important that you start where you are. If you have physical limitations, find an activity that suits your comfort level right now. For example, swimming is a great option if you have knee troubles. Or, check out the wealth of tutorial videos available for free online that walk you through scaled and beginner activities, such as yoga or chair exercises.
There you have it. Our bodies were meant to move! While the benefits of activity are undeniable, it’s easy to let life get in the way. Remember that everyone’s situation is different so find what works for you. Enjoy yourself and gain support. Start where you are and start small. Something is better than nothing. Happy moving!
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