Scheduling healthy activity isn’t difficult, the trick is in finding something that you enjoy enough to commit to on a regular basis. For some, this may be a class, for others, it may be taking a brisk walk alone or with a pet. It may be done in the morning, at lunchtime, or in the evening with family. The key to achieving and maintaining health is regular activity, and discovering what you enjoy, what fits your schedule, and what motivates you to continue.
When we think of “exercise” we tend to tie it into goals, like losing X lbs, fitting into a certain piece of clothing, or other external rewards, which may lead to failure. Instead, we should think of it as sheer enjoyment and personal drive. To do this well, there are a number of ways to take a journey of discovery and find the activity that fits your lifestyle and preferences.
Try a class.
For some, being surrounded by like-minded peers where potential friendships can be forged is the motivation they need to maintain a schedule of healthy activity. There are a wealth of class options, from barre to boot camp, boxing to spinning, yoga to running clinics that offer options for the social butterfly. Even if you don’t get social, just being surrounded by others with a shared goal can be motivating. A recent study by the American Osteopathic Association showed that group exercise can also significantly lower stress and improve quality of life. It may take a few tries to find the activity that clicks with you, but keep trying.
Go it alone.
While it can be challenging to hold yourself accountable, some people just prefer singular activities. Try a brisk walk, bike ride, dog walk, or discover one of the many outdoor fitness spaces popping up in parks and at recreation centers around the country. Self-driven exercise can be augmented with one of a number of apps that help you design fitness programs to suit your goals, schedule repeat sessions, and work around a hectic schedule.
Research is proving that the use of adult outdoor fitness equipment found in parks is providing a variety of meaningful outcomes to communities including engaging participants in substantially more moderate to vigorous physical activity. The equipment is available whenever the park is open, and more and more of these outdoor spaces are being designed to offer a well-rounded exercise experience that promotes health across aerobic, strength, core development, flexibility and balance. In addition, there is a meaningful body of research that shows how just being outside promotes a wealth of healthy benefits.
Make time for YOU.
When people are asked why they don’t exercise regularly, time is the number one answer. Between work, family, and other obligations, finding time just for you can be a challenge. But remember that the time you take to promote your health serves other areas of life as well. There are countless studies that show how aerobic exercise can boost memory and learning, as well as improve your mood. Try to find a time that you can devote to getting some healthy activity every day; some people swear by getting up 30 to 45 minutes earlier than usual because its time carved out just for them. Whatever time it is, pencil it in and stick to it. You wouldn’t skip filling the car with gas, or taking your child to school just because “you don’t feel like it today.” Give your health that same priority.
Go easy on yourself.
Don’t make healthy activity about a result, at least not at first. If you maintain a regular exercise schedule, success will come, but by concentrating on a goal too early, it can cause disappointment when results aren’t instant. Just concentrate on finding something you enjoy, and sticking to a schedule, rather than measuring results.
Respect your body - Not all exercise is right for everyone.
Know your body’s comfort level and be respectful of your current ability as you work to build skills. Swimming, walking and bike riding are great lower impact activities, be sure to consult with your physician before starting any new exercise routines.
Finally, keep at it! Take baby steps.
In time, being active will become as routine as brushing your teeth. You may even surprise yourself and look forward to it. If not, keep trying new activities until you find something that clicks. You’ll find that you will learn to look forward to your regular exercise, and discover the many benefits it will contribute mentally as well as physically.