In our fast-paced society, you may find yourself caught in a routine of unhealthy eating, low to no amounts of exercise, high levels of stress, and other habits that could have negative effects on your health. Although you may not know exactly how you ended up in this cycle, you’ve woken up one day and realized you need to make a change- a change, or combination of changes, to put you on a path towards a healthier lifestyle. You may have just realized you do not like the way you look, you were on a path leading you towards a preventable disease, or you simply want to feel better. We’ve constructed tips and tricks we believe can help you increase your physical activity and maintain an exercise program to be the change to better your life.
Step #1: Excuses, excuses, excuses.
First, it is important to determine reasons why you are unhealthy, and excuses you might be using to justify your current lifestyle. It is important to identify what your excuses have been in the past to help you from succeeding towards a healthy lifestyle. We’ve listed the top ten common excuses for not getting physical activity. Are you guilty of any of these?
1. Lack of time
2. Social influence
3. Lack of energy
4. Lack of motivation
5. Fear of injury
6. Lack of skill
7. Lack of resources
8. Weather conditions
10. Family obligations
Step #2: Find Your Exercise.
Once you’ve identified your setbacks, finding an exercise program or activity that suits your interests helps keep you motivated and committed. Instead of being miserable by participating in exercise that isn’t fun, you are able to enjoy your time spent making strides towards a healthier life. When choosing an exercise that works for you, consider whether you prefer exercising outdoors, if you like to be surrounded by people or would rather exercise privately, and the cost of the program, to ensure it fits into your budget. Some ideas you may want to try for physical activity can include:
4. Participating in outdoor or indoor sports
6. Group Exercise Classes such as Zumba and Boot camp
Step #3: What are your goals?
By establishing and writing down both short and long term goals, you will have a visual to keep in mind when working towards these goals. You should be able to tell a person your goals and find someone to keep you accountable to them. This person should be a positive influence towards your lifestyle change and act as a good support system for you. Goals should be S.M.A.R.T: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. An example of a S.M.A.R.T goal would be to lose 5 pounds in one month with proper nutrition and exercising 4 days a week.
Step #4: Make it a Priority.
In order for this to be a lifestyle change, it needs to fit into your daily life. By planning out your week and fitting in the time to exercise, you will be able to make it a part of your life that you can commit to. This may take some time management skills and a series of trial and error, but try and set your exercising to a specific time of day. You may be an early bird or a late bird, but finding a specific time of the day where you prefer to exercise will make it easier to commit to and help keep it a priority.
Step #5: Find what motivates you and use this to your advantage.
Motivation takes soul searching to figure out what works for you. You may choose to follow fit Instagram pages or create your own, talk to your support system, or develop an effective rewards system to keep your motivation consistent. Reward for motivation can be broken down into either extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic rewards are associated with the achievement of an external goal, and intrinsic rewards are associated with aspects of self-fulfillment and enjoyment. The factors you find to be most successful in maintaining motivation need to act as a set of tools for when you start to lose your drive and are at risk for going into a relapse.
Step #6: Give yourself some credit.
Take note of your progress to remind yourself of the achievements you’ve made. There are several ways to track your progress, such as taking progress pictures, keeping a log of measurement/weight difference, or keeping a log of physical achievements made while in your exercise program. Take time to appreciate the work you’ve put in to create the progress you currently have made, and use that as motivation to keep working hard.
Step #7: Keep going.
Persistence towards your goals is the only way you’ll ever be able to achieve them. Maintaining an exercise program can be the hardest challenge for many people. This is where your motivation, support system, goal sheet, and a record of progress can help remind you why it was you got started in the first place. There will be times where you start to have set backs, but you shouldn’t let this overcome you and undo your entire progress.
You may be wondering how exactly physical activity improves your health other than the obvious physical changes of losing weight or building muscle. The effects physical activity have on health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), include:
1. Reducing your risk of preventable disease, such as
Cardiovascular Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and Metabolic
2. Reducing your risk of certain cancers.
3. Improving mental health and mood.
4. Improving your ability to do daily activities and
prevent falls, if you're an older adult.
5. Increase your chances of living longer.
With enough persistence and belief in yourself, you are able to make the changes towards a healthier lifestyle and help others do the same. It just takes that initial realization that you need a lifestyle change, a plan to help you get there, and the drive to keep going. By using these tools, you are able to jumpstart your way towards a healthier life as well as push those around you be the change they want to see in themselves.
Lauderdale, M. E., Yli-Piipari, S., Irwin, C. C., & Layne, T. E.
(2015). Gender Differences Regarding Motivation for Physical
Activity Among College Students: A Self-Determination
Approach. Physical Educator, 72153-172.
Patay, M. E., Patton, K., Parker, M., Fahey, K., & Sinclair, C. (2015).
Understanding Motivators and Barriers to Physical Activity.
Physical Educator, 72(3), 496-517
Creating S.M.A.R.T. Goals:
Identifying Your Fitness Goals:
Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity:
Physical Activity and Health: