Increased energy, better cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke, keeping weight under control or even losing a few pounds, easier management of diabetes and high blood pressure.
Everyone agrees with these benefits and likes the results of regular physical activity. But 80% of Americans don’t make exercise a regular habit. In fact, about 14% said in a recent American Heart Association website survey that they don’t even like physical activity.
So how do you overcome this? Here are some tips from the American Heart Association to help you incorporate exercise into your life…and maybe even learn to like it.
- Find something that suits you. Find an exercise that best fits your personality. If you are a social person, do something that engages you socially such as a group exercise class or join some type of team or walk with a group of friends. If you prefer having time alone, walking or jogging might be a better fit. Be adventurous when choosing an activity until you find something that you enjoy. You might surprise yourself! During the cold months, I like walking a treadmill and watching TV. On warm days, I prefer walking in a neighborhood park listening to my favorite music. But if a friend comes along, that makes it all the better.
- Make it a habit. It takes about three weeks for something to become a habit so give yourself the time to create a regular routine. One way is to try to exercise about the same time each day. Exercise can become addictive in a positive way. Once it becomes a habit, you’ll notice when you aren’t doing something. When you like and enjoy an activity, then you’ll look forward to it.
- Build exercise into your lifestyle. Be honest with yourself. If you don’t live close to a gym, it’s probably not going to be a habit for you. If you’re not a morning person, don’t plan on somehow getting up early to make a boot camp class. The key is building activity into your lifestyle so it’s not disruptive. There are many ways to do this and it doesn’t mean you need to make a big financial investment. Borrow exercise DVDs from the library or DVR a program. Do weight or resistance training with items around your house (use canned food as light weights). Walking only requires a good pair of shoes. Just think about other ways to build physical activity into your day and then incorporate them. Set a goal to try one new way each week.
- Do bouts of exercise. It’s OK to break up your physical activity into smaller segments. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes a day of exercise most days. If that sounds overwhelming, try three 10 minute sessions. You could do several minutes of stretching when you get up, take a short walk before or after lunch, put in a DVD or walk the dog when you get home. What other ways can you do short spurts of exercise? Remember that it all adds up to that magic number
- Keep going. If you miss a day or two, don’t worry about it. Everyone struggles once in a while. Just make sure you get back at it the next day. It doesn’t take too long to get back into your routine. It’s easy to make something a habit again. You’ll see the same benefits as before. Anything that you can fit in will show benefits.
Since the weather has gotten warmer in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been walking each day in neighborhood parks. After sitting for most of the day, it’s nice to get outdoors and walk. My goal is three miles each day for five days each week. Due to my schedule, I haven’t met goal at this time but I’m still working on it.
So what type of physical activity are you going to try to see if you enjoy?
Carrie T. Brazeal is the County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972.424.1460, Ext. 4233.