You’ve set the goal for the New Year to live a healthier and more active lifestyle. That’s the easy part, the hard part is keeping that promise to yourself. Starting and keeping an exercise routine can be very rewarding, but finding that motivation can be a challenge.
You should first evaluate your priorities and make sure your health is on the top of the list. To reach that goal you should know you have to be dedicated, consistent and focused. Until you put your health first, your efforts to become healthy will more than likely fall short.
Does the thought of physical activity sound dreadful? Keep in mind that those who are physically active live longer. Research shows that 30 minutes of a brisk walk can significantly attribute to longevity and help improve various areas of your health, such as lower blood pressure, control blood sugar, improve cholesterol levels and build stronger, denser bones.
Where to start?
Health fitness experts say you should start now instead of making it a resolution. If you say you’re going to wait until the new year it is an excuse; just like saying you will start tomorrow, and then that turns into the next week, and so on.
The best way to start, especially if you have not exercised regularly or have a lofty goal, is to just begin to move throughout the day.
Reid Perry, the exercise science program chair at Globe University – Woodbury, suggests parking your car further away from the door, taking the stairs rather than the elevator and standing up from your desk at least every hour.
“Consider a standing work station. Small changes in physical activity can make a difference over a year. Begin walking; increasing physical activity does not have to be complicated. The human body was designed to walk and be active,” Perry said.
According to the Surgeon General, fewer than half of all U.S. adults get enough physical activity to reduce their risk of chronic disease, and only a quarter of high school students get the recommended amount. Physical inactivity contributes to heart and lung disease, diabetes and cancer, which account for 86 percent of our nation’s health care costs. Building walking into daily life can reduce disease and save money.
“We know that an average of 22 minutes a day of physical activity – such as brisk walking – can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes,” Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the 19th U.S. Surgeon General, said.
Anyone can set a goal, but not everyone can accomplish a goal without some hard work and dedication.
First, you should identify how you are going to reach your goal. You should also be specific when setting your goal. Set a deadline. Maybe you’ve decided you won’t drink alcohol for 30 days, or you are going to cut out soda or coffee. Maybe you have decided to walk for 30 minutes after dinner. Then you should write out how you are going to reach that goal to keep accountable. Also, anticipate roadblocks that may be ahead and find ways to overcome those roadblocks. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), those that write down their goals and record their exercise do better with the long-term change.
Another way to keep accountable is to share your goals with a close friend or relative. Use things like social media or create daily reminders to help you stay focused. You can also make it a group thing. Your support group can help motivate you and provide needed accountability. Identify those who detract from your stated goal and try to eliminate their influence as much as possible.
You’ve set the goal, now what?
Now that you have set your goals it’s a good idea to have something to measure your progress along the way.
Start by taking your measurements, weight and body fat. It is can also be helpful to take photos to see your achievements.
Remember, progress doesn’t always have to be a visual change. Maybe you held that plank for one minutes versus 30 seconds, or you ran a mile at a faster pace.
It can take several weeks before you see improvements in strength, endurance and weight loss, so don’t give up after a few days.
Keep in mind that small changes will go a long way. Rather than make drastic lifestyle changes, start by cutting out that extra cup of coffee or sweets.
According to ACSM, just one or two small changes will do the trick to help achieve a healthy body weight. It suggests:
- substituting water for sugary soda and fruit drinks
- reduce added fat
- eat less fat, trans fat sugar and sodium
- eat more fruits and vegetables
- revamp your snacks.
ACSM suggests a well-rounded program that includes aerobic exercise and strength training, but not all in the same session.
According to ACSM’s recommendations, healthy adults should be getting in at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity five days a week or 20 minutes of more vigorous activity three days a week.
Examples of typical aerobic exercises are: walking, running, stair climbing, cycling, rowing, cross country skiing and swimming.
Strength training should be performed a minimum of two days each week, with 8-12 repetitions of 8-10 different exercises that target all major muscle groups. This type of training can be accomplished using body weight, resistance bands, free weights, medicine balls or weight machines, according to ACSM recommendations.
If working out seems like a daunting task, treat it like a second job. Plan ahead by setting aside at least 30 minutes for physical activity.
Variety is the spice of life
Remember to keep it fun and try new things. You are more likely to stick with something you enjoy. Take a group exercise classes or recruit a few workout buddies.
You can also schedule a few sessions with a personal trainer to help show you around the gym. A trainer can help you fit exercise into your schedule and teach your how to make the most out of your time at the gym. Trainers can be a great source of motivation and encouragement, as well as a resource for the latest objective health and fitness information.