Like most tasks in life, one of the hardest aspects of exercising is getting started: taking the first step, signing up for the first class or jogging that first mile. Exercise has countless benefits including improved mood, better sleep, increased energy, decreased risk of chronic disease and weight management. We all know we should and need exercise, but sometimes knowledge is not enough. We need to put thought into action and take the first step toward moving more.
How Much Exercise Do I Need Each Week?
Any movement is better than none. If you have time for a 10-minute walk, go for it. If you can set aside an hour on the weekend and walk a local nature trail, go for it. Below are recommendations for how much exercise to aim for each week.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends adults participate in:
- At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity weekly, and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week that work all major muscle groups
- 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity weekly, and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week that work all major muscle groups
- An equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous- intensity aerobic activity weekly, and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week that work all major muscle groups
Locking in Your Motivation
What is your WHY for moving more? Examples include feeling better, losing weight, toning muscles, preparing for a race and achieving better health. Write down your reasons and look at them frequently, especially when you’re feeling unmotivated. Find an accountability partner to help keep you on track; examples include a health coach, colleague, spouse, friend or family member.
Transforming Excuses Into Obstacles
Exercise is not easy, and everyone faces multiple factors that can make it even more challenging. Time restraints, low energy levels and family commitments impact workout routines. Some days, simply changing into workout clothes might seem like an excuse not to exercise. Your first step is to reframe the term excuse into obstacle. Many obstacles are valid, no matter how silly or insignificant they seem. How can you work around the obstacles that stop you from moving?
Find an Activity You Love
Committing to an enjoyable activity will help keep you on track with workouts. Consider the gym, an exercise class or walking a local path. Do you like having a workout buddy or exercising by yourself? Try different workout options, and consider the fun level of each, as well as the quality of exercise.
Going to the gym every day after work may not be realistic. Think about commitments and everything else on your daily to-do list. Start with a realistic, attainable goal. You don’t want to burn out within the first few weeks. Going to the gym once a week for the entire year (roughly 50 sessions) is more beneficial than going every day for a month, then falling off for the rest of the year (30 sessions). Strive for moderation and consistency, not perfection.
Change It Up
Doing the same workout, day after day, month after month can get repetitive and boring. Try changing up exercise to match the season, for example, bike riding in the spring, fun indoor workout videos in the winter, and swimming in the summer. You can adjust the workout at any time. Be flexible.
On Tough Days – Stretch It Out
Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep, the workday was busier than normal, or traffic was terrible. Whatever the reason, some days our bodies cannot do high-intensity workouts. This is perfectly OK and normal. We’re human. As always, listen to your body. On days you feel extremely tired or sore, try some simple yoga poses or take a light walk. Taking it easy gives your body the rest it needs while still getting in some movement.
Endorphins (hormones/chemicals in the brain) are released to help us deal with stress or pain. Experiencing runner’s high or “being in the zone” while exercising can be the best part of a workout. During exercise, notice that your heart rate is up, muscles are activated and you are working up a sweat. Know your limits but push yourself gradually to build up endurance and strength – and feel a sense of achievement. You experience runner’s high by finding a happy middle ground of challenging but not exhausting yourself or causing severe pain.
We often want to distract ourselves from a workout, but being mindful (attentive) during exercise can relieve stress, feel good and make workouts more successful
Remember, your health is your most valuable asset. The Asset Health Coaching Team wishes you the best on your journey to a better you.