6 Tips to make exercise a lifestyle choice
Ok, here’s the jam: exercise is good for you. You know it, I know it, and Jessica at the coffee shop knows it. Exercising regularly is one of the best ways to improve health, lose weight (if that’s your thing), and boost well-being. On the other hand, exercising is a time commitment, it can be very difficult to get into a new routine, and frankly, exercising can be a little scary.
Sure, there are a few hurdles to making a big change, but the benefits are more than worth it. Regular exercise and physical activity helps people:
- Control weight along with a balanced diet
- Reduce their risk of heart disease
- Improve mental well-being and mood
- Stay sharp with boosted thinking, learning, and judgment skills,
- Reduce their risk of some cancers,
- Improve sleep
- Live longer
Take it easy. We understand that making exercise a lifestyle choice can be a tall order. That doesn’t mean it has to be impossible (or un-fun!). We’ve put together a list of ideas to help you turbocharge your new, awesome habit and ensure that you make the changes you want in your life.
Schedule it in.
For an exercise habit to stick, it’s important to plan ahead. Create space in your day planner or in your Google Calendar for a workout. Treat exercise like any other task you must get accomplished for the day, like work meetings or doctor’s appointments. Mark it in pen so you make fewer excuses when it’s time to actually work out.
Take time each Sunday to plan for the week ahead. You’ll have a good sense for what your other obligations are for the week and can add in exercise where you see free time in your schedule. Planning plants the seed in your mind that this is a thing you have marked down to complete this week.
Get physical all day long.
There are more opportunities than you think to add physical activity to your daily routine. Whether it’s taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further away from the destination, walking with a friend, or biking to work, there are ample ways to get your heart moving faster.
Another fun tip is to get active with friends, family members, or even strangers. Consider joining a group exercise club. Perhaps work physical exercise into group activities you already have scheduled. Take a new class on something you’ve always been interested in, like dance, Tai Chi, or volleyball.
Setting goals goes hand-in-hand with planning your exercise routines. What is it you hope to accomplish? Maybe your initial goal is to do 20 minutes of physical activity every day. Write that down in a planner or a separate notebook for tracking your new exercise habit. This helps you hold yourself accountable and celebrate the victories you’ll have as you reach each one of your goals!
Whether you’re using a paper log of physical activity or a digital fitness tracker, tracking your activity is also an important part of staying motivated. Try to avoid using trackers and goals as a reason to beat up on yourself if you fall off-track. Instead, focus on your wins and the benefits that you’re getting out of new habits and routines.
Don’t overdo it.
While you may be amped to launch into a new exercise routine and get all of the benefits as soon as possible, easy does it. There are some other tasks to consider as you start any new kind of physical activity, including stretching, warming up, cooling down, dressing in proper attire, and hydrating.
Jumping in too fast without proper training or preparation is a recipe for injury. Avoid injury by easing into new activities and giving your body a chance to adapt. Consider working with a trainer or coach in particular activities as they can provide additional guidance to help you start meeting goals without injuring yourself.
Pay attention to the benefits.
Sometimes starting a new exercise program can be a drag. It might mean sacrificing that extra hour of sleep to hit the gym before work or passing up happy hour to get to your dance class on time. While trading immediate gratification for longer term benefits can be good, it can also be mentally trying.
Be sure to focus on the short and long-term benefits you’re getting out of exercise and physical activity. For starters, exercise boosts energy levels, can help you fall asleep faster, makes you more clear-headed and can help you reach your weight loss goals. By being mindful of these benefits as you experience them, it can drown out the negative voices in the head that tell you to just skip it for today.
Partner with your doc.
It’s always a good idea to get your doctor involved when considering a change to your physical activity levels. This is especially true for anyone who may be living with a chronic health condition. Even those that are free from chronic conditions can use the input of a primary care physician who has intimate knowledge of your health history.
If you have health insurance, take advantage of covered doctor visits to get some basic screenings done that can help ensure you’re fit for any uptick in physical activity. You may also want to consult your doctor on what types of physical activity may be best for your goals (losing weight, lowering blood pressure, improving sleeping patterns, etc.)
Hint: All of Decent’s health plans offer free visits with your dedicated primary care doctor. Tap him/her as your new healthy lifestyle coach and visit the doctor’s office as often as needed to help keep you healthy and on-track…..all for no charge whatsoever. Free. With the right planning, the right dedication, and a little help from a dedicated doctor, diving into exercise as a lifestyle choice can be quite fun! Embrace the change, feel the burn, and celebrate every victory in your newfound lifestyle.