Staying Active This Spring
Posted on April 25 2019
The benefits of exercise have been repeatedly proven by health studies. It improves mood, improves sleep, improves sexual health, and lowers your risk of major illnesses like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer by up to 50 percent. But our lives seem like they're designed to make regular exercise impossible, between increasingly long working hours, increasingly long commutes, and caring for family. Many fitness guides focus on how many miles you should run or how many reps you should do; what you need to discover instead is how much time you can steal away and what activity suits you best.
1. Have Fun!
This is something we can't stress enough. People talk about exercise with resentment, even people who clearly spend their lives in the gym. (Especially those people. Stop it, Instagram.) Make no mistake, exercise is work, but it shouldn't be an epic task requiring untapped stores of willpower every time. Find something you like to do, and avoid activities you don't like, and it'll be that much easier to stay active. It seems like obvious advice, but many people push themselves into activities regarded as the most effective fitness options, like running or lifting, and then get discouraged when they don't enjoy it. Your area may have options you've never even considered that might be perfect for you, even if they aren't the most common options. Some ideas:
- Adult sports leagues: volleyball, softball, kickball, and plenty of other team sports.
- Dance classes.
- Exercise classes.
- Hiking, walking, or nature trails.
Home exercise equipment: even something as simple as an exercise mat or light weight set can give you plenty of options.
- Martial arts.
- Outdoor games: backyard sports like badminton or Frisbee.
- Swimming: a fitness center with an indoor pool is a great option for year-round swimming.
- Yoga: low-impact strength training in a relaxed environment like yoga or Pilates.
2. Incorporate Fitness Into Your Routine
The biggest obstacle to exercise is a busy life, especially for those of us who work in an office. Giving yourself the opportunity for a quick burst of energy will help you focus and make work more enjoyable. Even at home you can stay active while attending to all your obligations. Some ideas:
- Use work breaks and lunch hours to go for walks.
- Work at a desk? Take regular, short standing breaks to stretch and move.
- Replace your office chair with an exercise ball.
- Bike or walk to work instead of driving.
- Take stairs instead of using elevators.
- Exercise while watching TV or doing work at home: stationary bikes, treadmills, or strength training equipment are great options.
- Do regular housework and yardwork.
- Walk your dog: a dog is an amazing exercise buddy.
- Practice with your kids: do you have children playing a school sport? Help them practice at home.
3. Don't Go Alone
Those last few ideas highlight a universal behavior: it's so much easier to try something new alongside someone else. Stepping into a gym alone for the first time is intimidating. Trying something new in a public class, like yoga, dance, or martial arts, can be an anxious experience even for an outgoing person. Having a friend, family member, coworker, or neighbor alongside you as you embark on something untested is a huge confidence booster, and it's also a great way to maintain a routine. We can procrastinate on our own without feeling that guilty, but we can't let down a friend so easily. And no one can say no to a dog who wants to go for a walk.
4. Develop a Plan and Document It
Setting short-term, reachable goals is a great way to make exercise seem less daunting, especially if you're working on becoming regularly active again. It will also help you figure out how to work exercise into your schedule, even if it's as simple as allotting 10 or 15 minutes to walk in the evening.
You may also want to keep an exercise diary! Record what you did during a session of activity, how long you exercised, and how you felt afterward. This will help you chart your progress in a satisfying way, and also help you determine what activities work best for you. Many people start exercise plans with specific goals ahead of them, particularly regarding weight loss, but by focusing on future rewards they can become discouraged. Instead of setting that target weight, focus on how exercise is making you feel right now. If you find an activity that relaxes you, energizes you, or helps you manage a chronic condition, reflecting on it in a journal entry will be much more satisfying and less intense than checking the scale every day.