Ever wonder why New Year’s resolutions are so difficult to keep? Willpower or lack thereof may be one good reason. We all have a limited supply of willpower that may sustain us short-term. So, unfortunately, we can’t rely on willpower alone to support us through a new gung-ho exercise plan. Pushing too hard and attempting to do too much too soon leaves us feeling overwhelmed and quickly leads to exhaustion aka burn out. Before you know it, we’re abandoning our fitness resolutions altogether. In order to make lasting lifestyle changes, an attitude adjustment and change of habit is required.
Now about that attitude adjustment. Have you ever noticed that healthy and fit people can’t wait to get the gym? Or that sedentary people find exercise boring or a chore? The trick may lie in finding an activity that you love to do and, in turn, realizing that “exercising” can be fun. It’s easy to make excuses that we don’t have time to exercise. While it’s true that many of us are so time-stressed that we feel we don’t have one extra minute, what we need to realize is that exercise can also be quick. It’s really all about becoming more physically active for more moments of the day. And for those of us who are goal oriented, thinking in terms of “productive” activity can really help to change your mindset about exercise.
- Fun – Matching your physical abilities to activities you enjoy may just be enough to sustain regular exercise. The biggest challenge here is simply deciding which activities are convenient enough to build into your regular routine. You can choose activities that don’t require memberships, equipment or ongoing costs. If you love to dance, put on some great music and dance in the living room. If you have children, they’ll be the first to join in and suddenly exercise becomes a fun family affair. If being outside lifts your spirits, walking, riding a bike or taking your dog out to play can provide multiple benefits for both you and your pet. Choosing a variety of both indoor and outdoor exercises works different muscle groups and helps to stave off boredom.
- Quick - Yes, it’s true that 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there add up to overall fitness. But what if you have only 2 minutes? Use them wisely! Short bursts of calisthenics are a great way to get fit. If you watch TV in the evening, get up during commercials and do a few sit ups, march in place or do some jumping jacks. Add in some stretches while you’re watching a movie or waiting for dinner to finish cooking. Be creative. There is more time in the day for increasing little moments of activity than you think and every movement helps burn calories and manage your weight.
- Productive – Some of us are more motivated when we can find value in an activity. Gardening, raking leaves or shoveling snow are all productive activities that can provide a feeling of accomplishment. If you need an item from the store, when feasible walk or bike to the store instead of driving. Participating in a charity walk-a-thon, volunteering to help an elderly neighbor with chores or shopping, walking dogs at the shelter or packing food at a food bank are some ways to be productively active and provide benefits to others as well as yourself.
Remember everything we do each day is based on habits. Plunking down on the couch after work each day is a habit just the same as going for a walk could be. Exchanging bad habits for good habits is challenging but possible. Focusing on one goal at a time for at least 30 days seems to be helpful technique for forming a new habit. If your goals are health oriented, exercise is a good place to begin. Starting with small steps and a change of mindset, as described above, is a reliable recipe for achievement.
One of the best ways to stay on track with exercise is to plan for success. If you miss a chance to work out, start fresh the next day. Studies show that missing two workouts in a row increases your chances of giving up entirely. It may help to remember that all exercise contributes to a more energized mind and healthier body. Among the many positive and potential benefits of sustained physical activity are a refreshing positive outlook, renewed health and fitness, and increased chances of a longer, healthier lifespan.
If you are over 40 years of age, have existing health problems, are overweight or have been sedentary for a long period of time, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any vigorous exercise plan. Starting out slowly and incrementally increasing the time, length and intensity of exercise has been shown to be the best way to sustain a healthy active lifestyle.
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