Motivation gets you started. Habit keeps you going.
Why do many people find it so hard to keep active? We know we need to be more active. So why aren’t we? Or maybe you are aerobically active (for example, walking) but you want to add some higher-intensity or strengthening exercises. There are numerous reasons people choose not to exercise, many of which are due to a lack of motivation. Other reasons relate to tangible barriers, such as our schedules or pain. Despite these hurdles, I will make a case for exercise, highlighting the incredible benefits. I will then conclude with strategies that can help you build a habit to start exercising regularly. In previous blogs, I promoted the concept of ‘starting small’ and being ‘consistent’ with exercise. Exercise snacking incorporates the idea of exercising in small bouts, then increasing the duration and frequency in order to maximize benefits.
A Case for Exercise!
There are many scientifically established benefits of regular exercise. These benefits become more important as we grow older. People who exercise tend to have reduced blood pressure, improved heart function, improved muscle strength, lower amounts of fat around vital internal organs, improved mood, reduced stress, reduced inflammation, and improved sleep — compared with those who are sedentary. Too, exercise lowers risks of developing cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, depression, osteoarthritis, diabetes, dementia, and Alzheimer disease, as well as many forms of cancer. The bottom line is that regular exercise improves quality and length of life. It does so by improving cardiovascular health, muscle strength and endurance, and protecting against the leading causes of death that includes cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Stop wishing. Start doing.
Despite the incredible benefits of exercise, many people are not regularly active. On the whole, much of the world’s population remains sedentary, doing less incidental activity such as walking and moving around. This can be offset by planned exercise. Approximately 50-55% of the US population and Australian population meet the recommended activity guidelines for aerobic exercise, and less than 25% for aerobic and muscle strengthening exercise. In short, for optimal health, you should participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week (broken up into as little as 10-minute bouts) and two sessions of strengthening exercise.
Being active is one aspect of our lives that we can control to improve our quality of life. How much we choose to move daily will make a difference in the long term.
Why is it so hard to be active when the benefits are so obvious?
Below are some reasons you may relate to:
1. I am too busy. I cannot fit exercise into my very hectic life. Here is a previous blog on this issue.
2. Exercise is inconvenient. It takes time, the right place, and the right gear which I don’t have. I do not have easy access to a gym when it is too cold or too hot to be active outside.
3. Exercise is boring. It is hard to stay motivated.
4. I am too tired. By the time I get to exercise in the evening, I am already tired.
5. Exercise hurts. My knees hurt when I run, and this limits my choices. I don’t know what to do.
6. I don’t have an exercise partner to motivate me.
These are all very legitimate reasons! And there are more not listed here, and some that are specific to your situation. The reality is that exercise is not always convenient, and it does take commitment. It takes choice every day. The choice, however, does not need to be burdensome and can be achieved.
‘Exercise Snacking’. How to be more active.
Below are some helpful hints to incorporate activity and exercise into your day.
1. Snack on Exercise. Consider ‘snacking’ on activity by starting small in both time and bouts/sessions. See our previous blog (guest blogger Dr Ashleigh Smith) on small steps! Start by incorporating a 5–10-minute activity break. This could be once a day or even as little as twice a week. Small achievable steps will allow your body time to adapt to the increased physical demands. If for example you already walk daily, start small: for 5 minutes after your walk, incorporate some body weight strengthening exercises. You can break many of our MyAge.fit exercise challenges into 5-minute bouts. Committing to an exercise snack once a day or even twice a week will move you forward. Forming the habit is the start.
Here is my story on how I started swimming in small, achievable bouts more regularly over the last several years.
2. Schedule your exercise snack. Just like any other commitment or important meeting, schedule it! Plan it! Choose a time when you are most likely to get it done. I typically exercise in the morning. If I defer exercise to the evening, I am often too tired. I will tend not follow through unless I have a class or a friend I meet, and we exercise together.
3. Find a workout partner. Exercising with a partner is so motivating and will keep you accountable. Sometimes this can take the form of a friend, meeting once a week to work out together or taking a class so that you need to show up. Again, start small so you do not overburden yourself and you can keep the exercise habit. It’s your mind that you have to convince.
These simple strategies are not rocket science! However, for success, you need to convince yourself that committing to strategies like these are beneficial. These strategies will also help you overcome some of the barriers you face when thinking about exercise such as the boredom, tiredness, and inconvenience.
No matter what stage you find yourself, whether starting to exercise or wanting to incorporate different types of exercise into your current routine, start small. The idea of ‘exercise snacks’ can help. The benefits of exercise will far outweigh the initial burden.
Sign up to learn about six steps that can help you maintain the exercise habit.
To help you be active, try some of the MyAgeFit exercise challenges from 2020.
Challenge 1 7-Day strength-based exercises
Challenge 2 7-Day strength-based exercises
Challenge 3 6 Week aerobic exercise – running
Challenge 4 6 Week aerobic exercise – walking
Challenge 5 7-Day strength-based exercises
Challenge 6 7-Day strength-based exercises
Challenge 7 7-Day strength-based exercises
Challenge 8 7-Day strength and cardio exercises