Perhaps you are one of the small percentage of American adults who actually got their fill of exercise this week. Or you are one of nearly 80% of us who didn’t, even though we may have had good intentions. Studies show that more than half of all Americans fail to obtain even the minimum amount of the recommended daily or weekly exercise that is so necessary to maintain good health and reduce the risk of chronic disease. Why is it so hard for us to get attuned to the physical and mental health benefits of regular activity when studies show that consistent moderate intensity exercise can lead to a longer and healthier lifespan?
Some of us are time constrained, have physical limitations, lack motivation or are good at making excuses, yet most of us would choose health over illness or disease. Excuses are likely to be at the top of the list. Some suggest we don’t exercise because we are too comfortable and exercise literally takes us out of that comfort zone. We don’t want to be sweaty or cold or we don’t want to get our hair wet. People don’t want to get up early to exercise before work or they are too embarrassed to go to the gym. Perhaps it’s time to get into that uncomfortable exercise mode and get sweaty, get moving and work those muscles. Afterwards, when you are showered, your skin is glowing and your endorphins are flowing, your body will thank you, sore muscles and all. Perhaps that discomfort zone isn’t so bad after all.
Good health doesn’t happen by itself. Our bodies need care, good nutrition and exercise, and we are the only ones who can control our own choices. Exercise takes many forms and can include any activity that gets your body moving. It doesn’t have to be the same type of exercise all the time, as long as it includes some aerobic activity and muscle strengthening each week. In fact, mixing things up is a good idea and staves off boredom. For those of us who say we just hate to exercise, the trick is to find an enjoyable physical activity that doesn’t feel like a chore and then do it regularly, every day when possible.
What’s your excuse?
I don’t have time. If exercise is not a priority, we will never find the time. It’s true that many of us are time constrained and exhausted at the end of our sometimes overly long days. However, it’s likely that you can find some time, a few minutes here and there, by paying real attention to how you spend your leisure time. Are you playing video games, watching TV, constantly checking email or texting your friends? Take a hard look at how you spend your time and see if there’s not some time you could free up for a work out, even if it’s only 10 minutes. You may find it helps to add exercise to your schedule and treat it like you would any other important commitment. Take every chance you can get for exercise, whether that means biking to work, walking to the store, parking further away from your destination or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Little moments of activity all add up to a greater chance of meeting your goals and improving your health.
I’m embarrassed to go to the gym or don’t have a membership. There are lots of exercises you can do at home or in your own neighborhood. You can exercise in your own living room by making use of numerous exercise DVDs, playing sports on game consoles, following online workouts or doing calisthenics. Exercise is free for those who can get outside for a walk, a run, a bike ride or, if you are fortunate enough to live by the water, a swim. There are endless possibilities. There is likely some activity out there that interests you. If it gets you off the couch and moving, that’s all it takes.
Exercise is boring. If exercise bores you, you have yet to find the right activity. Try group fitness or social exercise such as classes, dancing or joining a walking group. Take the dog out for a run, play basketball with the kids, go for a nature walk, go window shopping or horseback riding. Just do anything that involves motion. If you can get your heart rate up by walking quickly, biking or jumping rope, all the better for your long-term health. Exercise can be fun and enjoyable when you find the right type for you!
I’m so out of shape, I don’t know where to begin. As always, begin at the beginning and don’t be too hard on yourself. All it takes is to open the front door and step out. Perhaps you are overweight or have an injury or health issue. It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting an exercise program if you are a newbie, but just about everyone has the capacity to perform some sort of physical activity. Start slow and increase a little every day. You may be surprised at the improvements in your confidence and overall wellness when you stick with a routine.
I lack motivation. Some of us with good intentions simply do too much too soon, get discouraged and quit before we barely get started. Staying active is a life long journey that takes time and focus. Others of us get discouraged when we don’t see progress or lose weight quickly enough. Once again, it takes time for the body to strengthen, lose fat and build muscle. It’s not unusual for it to take 12 weeks or more to see real changes. Don’t give up! Focus on the total health benefits including increased cardio fitness, lowered blood pressure, positive mental focus and more regulated blood sugar levels.
I don’t have the energy. When you’re tired and stressed it is hard to get started or keep going. This may sound strange, but the cure for low energy may just be more exercise. Regular exercise improves muscle strength and endurance and delivers more oxygen and nutrients to your cells and tissues. As your cardiovascular efficiency improves, you will find you actually have more energy as you go about your day. What’s more, your sex life may also improve as you begin to feel more energized and feel better about your total body image.
It’s raining, or it’s hot or it’s too cold. Here’s where getting out of the comfort zone comes into play. Unless you are a witch, you won’t melt if you get wet and you can dress appropriately for the weather. As long as it’s not pouring, a walk in the rain can be exhilarating. If you really can’t stand being wet or cold or hot, exercise indoors, go walk the mall, take an aerobics or yoga class or walk the treadmill.
As you can see, for every reason that you can come up with not to exercise, there’s a solution. If you really want a healthy life, don’t let these excuses derail your commitment for one more day. How much is enough? According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, any activity that uses energy, including daily life activities, counts towards overall fitness. Ideally, strive for moderately intense cardio exercise for 30 minutes, 5 days per week, or vigorous intense cardio for 20 minutes, 3 days per week. Include 8 – 10 strength training exercises, 8 – 12 reps each, twice per week. When you think about it, the time commitment is relatively small but the benefits of improved health and longevity are enormous.References: The Real Reason We Don’t Exercise.
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shrink/201411/the-real-reason-we-dont-exercise Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389 CDC: 80 percent of American adults don’t get recommended exercise. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/cdc-80-percent-of-american-adults-dont-get-recommended-exercise/ Most Common Reasons People Stop Exercising (And What You Can Do About Them!)
http://www.secondscount.org/heart-resources/heart-resources-detail?cid=e6d0293d-311f-49d0-bd78-d4e745e4d6c4 Physical Activity Guidelines For Americans.