There are many great reasons to exercise—from improving energy, mood, sleep, and health to reducing anxiety, stress, and depression. Workout plans with detailed instructions are just a click away. But if knowing how and why to exercise was enough, we’d all be in shape. Making exercise a lifestyle habit takes more, you need the right mindset and a smart approach. Whatever your age or fitness level, even if you’ve never exercised a day in your life, there are things you can do to make exercise less intimidating and more fun!
What’s keeping you from exercising?
If you’re having trouble beginning an exercise plan or following through, you’re not alone. Many of us struggle getting out of the sedentary rut, despite our best intentions.
Dealing with a busy personal schedule, work schedule or poor health can make exercise more challenging for most of us. We have the best intention but for many of us the motivation quickly flames out, or we get easily discouraged and give up.
How to breakthrough mental barriers
Let go of the all-or-nothing attitude. A little exercise is better than nothing. In fact, studies have found that by adding just modest amounts of physical activity to your weekly routine can have a profound effect on your mental and emotional health.
Be kind to yourself. Research shows that self-compassion increases the likelihood that you’ll succeed in any given endeavor. Be kind to yourself, don’t beat yourself up about your body, your current fitness level, or your supposed lack of willpower. All that will do is demotivate you. Instead, look at your past mistakes and unhealthy choices as opportunities to learn and grow.
Check your expectations. You didn’t get out of shape overnight, and you’re not going to instantly transform your body either. Expecting too much, too soon only leads to frustration. Try not to be discouraged by what you can’t do or how far you must go to reach your fitness goals. Instead of obsessing over results, focus on consistency. While the improvements in mood and energy levels may happen quickly, the physical payoff will come in time.
How to remove common exercise excuses
“I’m too busy.”
Even the busiest of us can find free time in our day for things that are important. It’s your decision to make exercise a priority. And don’t think you need a full hour for a good workout. Short 5-, 10-, or 15-minute bursts of activity can be very effective—so, too, can be squeezing all your exercise into a couple of sessions at the weekend. If you’re too busy during the week, get up and get moving at the weekends when you have more time.
“I’m too tired.”
It may sound counterintuitive, but physical activity is a powerful pick-me-up that reduces fatigue and boosts energy levels in the long run. With regular exercise, you’ll feel much more energized, refreshed, and alert.
“I’m too fat,” “I’m too old,” or “My health isn’t good enough.”
It’s never too late to start building your strength and physical fitness, even if you’re a senior or a self-confessed couch potato who has never exercised before. Very few health or weight problems make exercise out of the question, so talk to your doctor about a safe routine for you.
“Exercise is too difficult and painful.”
“No pain, no gain” is an outdated way of thinking about exercise. Exercise shouldn’t hurt. And you don’t have to push yourself until you’re soaked in sweat or every muscle aches to get results. You can build your strength and fitness by walking, swimming, even playing golf, gardening, or cleaning the house.
“I’m not athletic.”
Still have nightmares from PE? You don’t have to be sporty or ultra-coordinated to get fit. Focus on easy ways to be more active, like walking, swimming, or even working more around the house. Anything that gets you moving will work.
How much exercise do you need?
Current recommendations for most adults is at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. You’ll get there by exercising for 30 minutes, 5 times a week. Can’t find 30 minutes in your busy schedule? It’s okay to break things up. Two 15-minute workouts or three 10-minute workouts can be just as effective. Studies have found that squeezing a week’s worth of activity into one or two sessions at the weekend can be almost as beneficial for your health as spreading it out over the week.
How hard do I need to exercise?
For most people, moderate exercise is the most beneficial for overall health; you don’t need to keep intensifying your workouts or sweat buckets. Moderate activity means you breathe a little heavier than normal, but are not out of breath. When doing moderate activities your body feels warmer as you move, but not overheated or sweaty.
How to make exercising more enjoyable
Choose activities that make you feel happy and confident.
If your workout is unpleasant or makes you feel clumsy, you’re unlikely to stick with it. Don’t choose activities like running or lifting weights at the gym just because you think that’s what you should do. Instead, pick activities that fit your lifestyle, abilities, and taste. Talk with the staff at your local gym about the various classes offered and find a couple that you would enjoy.
Start small and build up momentum
A goal of exercising for 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week may sound good but be sure to set achievable and realistic goals. As you meet these goals then you can move on to more challenging goals.
Triggers are one of the secrets to success when it comes to forming an exercise habit. In fact, research shows that the most consistent exercises rely on them. Triggers are simply reminders, a time of day, place, or cue—that kick off an automatic reaction. They put your routine on autopilot, so there’s nothing to think about or decide on. The alarm clock goes off and you’re out the door for your walk. You leave work for the day and head straight to the gym.
People who exercise regularly tend to do so because of the rewards exercise brings to their lives, such as more energy, better sleep, and a greater sense of well-being. However, these tend to be long-term rewards. When you’re starting an exercise program, it’s important to give yourself immediate rewards when you successfully complete a workout or reach a new fitness goal. Choose something you look forward to, but don’t allow yourself to do until after exercise. It can be something as simple as having a hot bath or a favorite cup of coffee.
Make it social
Exercise can be a fun time to socialize with friends and working out with others can help keep you motivated. Joining classes at the gym is a great way to meet new people who share a common interest!