Most of us are starting the New Year with resolutions to improve, but few changes will improve your life more than regular exercise. However, starting an exercise habit can seem insurmountable to the chronically sedentary. This article offers tips to get you motivated to begin and stick with regular exercise.
First off, there’s more to exercise than just weight loss. Have you seen the significant difference between elderly people who exercise versus those who don’t? That’s because the organ that benefits most from exercise is your brain, and regular exercise will help keep you sharp and nimble well into your golden years.
Exercise also is the key to lowering your risk of heart disease, bone loss, dementia, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, anxiety, loneliness, poor self-esteem, and more.
However, its reputation as a health panacea is not sufficiently motivating. To be motivating exercise needs to be is fun.
Research shows that once they make exercise a “should,” people lose interest. Preventing dementia or reversing diabetes frequently loses out to the solace found in a bag of chips and the latest episode of Nashville. Fear-based motivation, such as the health threats of high blood pressure or bone loss are slightly more effective motivators but still fail many.
You have to make exercise fun to stick with it
Adding to the burden is that fact that Americans today are overly busy. Working one or more jobs, single parenting, schoolwork in the evenings… it all makes trips to the gym seem like an extravagant, unnecessary luxury. However, those who make the time find exercise actually improves productivity in the rest of their day, almost as if it is mysteriously creating more time. This is because of the enormous boost in brain function it delivers.
When people feel stretched to the limit, they will only fit in what feels absolutely necessary. Therefore, say research psychologists you need to create a compelling reason to exercise. Figuring out how to make it fun and deliver that immediate endorphin high is one way. Another way is to keep it short but intense so you’re not burning up too much time.
Keep it short but intense
For instance, challenge your kids to a few running races or pushup challenges to get in some short bursts of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT has been lauded as quick and easy but highly “therapeutic” form of exercise. The beauty of it is you can tailor it to your fitness level with the only goal being you boost your heart rate, rest, and repeat.
Add in a social element
Another well-proven strategy is to exercise with friends or in a group. This kills two birds with one stone by also fitting in the extremely health-promoting activity of socialization.
Exercise while you work
You also might want to work exercise into normally sedentary habits of long hours at the computer or vegging in front of the TV. New research shows that sitting disease which comes from sitting for long hours every day, is a silent killer no matter how well you eat or how often you exercise. It’s up there with smoking in terms of health risks and shortens your life span while dulling your mood. Sadly, quitting your job to frolic on the beach is not in the cards for most of us. Instead, many people have found they can work while walking on a treadmill standing at a desk, or riding a stationary bike. You can buy an expensive treadmill desk or a cheaper attachment for a treadmill that will hold your laptop. A variety of standing desks are now available, and a stationary bike with a built-in workstation has received many good reviews. The key is to work against gravity while you’re on the computer or watching TV, as that has been shown to be necessary for the body and brain to stay healthy.
Walk, even if you already exercise
Never underestimate the power of a daily walk For those who don’t exercise, it is the easiest and perhaps the most enjoyable form of exercise available. And for those who do exercise already, regular walks are still golden bullets of good health. As the only truly bipedal mammals, our brain’s prowess is connected to our ability to walk on two legs, making daily walks a great way to maintain good mental function and thus good health.