Though it's early on the calendar, spring is clearly here in the Northeast (at least for this week). Even if this warm weather doesn't last, now is still the perfect time to start getting outside and being more active. We can all use the vitamin D, too!
I often hesitate to use the word 'exercise', because it can put limitations on what people consider in terms of activity. It gets them thinking in terms of 'shoulds' instead of 'coulds,' and those are much less successful and productive in terms of setting, achieving and maintaining health goals. Think in terms of what you can do, instead of what you should do, realistically, and you will make so much more progress and avoid becoming overwhelmed and frustrated.
Gyms and fitness classes can be great and work well for many people. But it's important to know that if your goals are healthy weight-loss and greater energy, you don't necessarily have to spend hours pumping weights in a gym or running on a treadmill. There are other options:
1. Move more in your daily life
. Walk, bike, take the stairs, garden, take stretch breaks or do short bursts of activity. Household chores and playing with your kids and pets count, too.
2. Find something fun, and vary your activities.
What did you enjoy as a kid? What do you find fun now? Even creative projects can get you moving. Some trial and error may be involved, but trying new activities or sports can be fun and keep you feeling young.
3. Get involved with a partner or a group
. Even if you don't join a gym or play a sport, having a team to be active with and to support you can work miracles. Make sure you're with people who will stay positive and that you like being around!
4. Start, and progress, slowly
, and expect ups and downs. When trying anything new,, time and other obligations will press in on you. But keep at it, and don't beat yourself up when other priorities take over. That's life, it happens! That's why embracing the mindset of simply being more active can help sustain you over the long-term, and make goals more achievable.
5. Measure, don't weigh.
If you want to gauge your fitness progress, stay off the scale and go by how your clothes fit, or take regular measurements of your arms, legs, waist and hips. A person's weight can fluctuate 2-5 lbs. each day depending on gender and other physical characteristics, and muscle weighs more than fat. So go by how you physically feel: the energy you have, the flexibility, the stamina, etc.- those are more powerful indicators of progress than any number on the scale!
The key is to try to do some physical activity--however little--on most
days. As it becomes more of a habit, you can slowly add extra minutes or
try different types of activities. If you keep at it, the benefits will
begin to pay off.Being more active as other benefits, as well:
1. Easing stress and anxiety.
twenty-minute bike ride won't sweep away life's troubles, but physical
activity helps you take charge of anxiety and reduce stress. Aerobic
activities release hormones that relieve stress and promote a sense of
2. Lifting your mood.
Exercise and activity
can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant
medication by releasing endorphins, the powerful chemicals in your brain
that energize your spirits and make you feel good.
3. Sharpening brainpower.
same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and
feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise and activity also
stimulate the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related
4. Improving self-esteem.
Regular activity is an
investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes habit, it can
foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful.
5. Boosting energy.
your heart rate several times a week will give you more energy. Start
off with just a few minutes a day, and increase your activity level as
you feel more energized.
6. Promoting sleep. If you have trouble sleeping, exercise and
activity help you fall asleep faster and sleep more deeply. The more
often you do it, the better the pattern gets.
- Set realistic, achievable goals for yourself.
- Start where you are. Try not to compare yourself to others. We are all unique.
an activity you enjoy. If you don't enjoy it, you won't keep doing it!
This is one of the main reasons people stop exercising. Self-discipline
will only take you so far.
- Try keeping a fitness journal to track progress.
it takes time to form new habits. Don't get down on yourself if you
don't progress as quickly as you'd like. Just get back on track when
you're ready, and keep your goals in mind.
- Listen to your body, and be patient and kind to yourself.
The first step is always the hardest, but once you take it, it's so much easier to take another, and another, an so on. Just do one thing today to get yourself started!