For some people, exercise is like a mountain that’s difficult to climb—and that’s understandable. Incorporating regular, effective exercise into your life is no small feat. It requires self-discipline, self-confidence, a sacrifice of time, physical exertion when you feel tired, getting up early or extending your long day, and in some cases, it could even require taking time off work or lining up childcare so you can get in a good workout.
But, we know exercise is worth the effort for many reasons. Not only does it improve your overall health, it also reduces the risk of many health conditions, is a key factor for weight loss, helps you become stronger and better able to manage regular daily activities, and improves your mood and emotional health.
But, where do you start if you are someone who dreads the idea of being active and has never been able to motivate yourself to exercise? Emily Weaver, BSN, RN, AGPCNP, a nurse practitioner with True You Weight Loss, specializes in helping weight loss patients work through these challenges. “In many cases, people don’t like exercise because they haven’t found something active they truly enjoy or maybe they’re lacking the self-confidence to get started,” explains Weaver. She tells us that exercise is less about being motivated, and more about deciding it’s something you’re going to do and staying disciplined enough to keep up with it.
Below, Weaver shares some insightful ways to think outside the box and find new inspiration when it comes to making physical activity a part of your regular daily routine.
- Incorporate More Movement into Your Day: Did you know that you are already doing many things on a daily basis that burn calories? NEAT, or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, consists of the calories we burn while doing non-exercise activities. Walking from the parking lot to work and doing chores around the house are examples of NEAT. Increasing your NEAT is a great way to incorporate more steps and more activity into your life. You can do this in simple ways, such as shuffling back and forth while standing in line, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away from your office or coffee shop, or taking an extra lap around the perimeter of the grocery store. Adding extra steps into your day is equivalent to adding some exercise into your routine. Plus, your overall calorie burn will be higher if you make efforts to move more. For Weaver’s patients who struggle to exercise, she encourages starting with an increase in NEAT since this is often an easier change than committing to a formal exercise plan right off the bat.
- Enjoy Active Habits & Activities: More good news is that many hobbies and pastimes such as gardening, yard work, playing outdoor games in the yard with your kids, and dancing all burn calories and can double as exercise. Spicing up household chores can be productive as well. Turn on some upbeat music while making the bed, mopping the floor, or washing the dog to increase the intensity of your movements and increase your heartrate as well.
- Exercise With a Partner: Finding an exercise partner, whether it be your spouse, a friend, a sibling, a family member, or a neighbor, will likely help exercise take on a whole new meaning for you. Not only will you look forward to seeing and spending time with that person, but you will also feel accountable for showing up when it’s time for a workout. As an added bonus, exercising with a partner may also increase your motivation, for example, inspiring you to run faster or farther than you would alone or to add some extra pep to your step during a group workout class.
- Try a “Desk Workout:” Some people may be surprised to learn that exercise can be done at your desk or other stationary workstation. In fact, desk workouts can even break up your day and keep you moving right from your office space. Here’s an example. Every hour, stand up and do some squats or lunges or use resistance bands or dumbbells. You can even use this time to dance! Setting aside 10 minutes, four to five times per day, for a desk workout is much more beneficial for your physical and emotional health than doing nothing physical that day at all.
- Make Exercise Your “Me-Time:” Music, podcasts, and favorite TV shows can be excellent motivation for exercise. Listen to your favorite tunes or podcast while you are walking or running, or watch your favorite TV show while on the treadmill. Make a deal with yourself to only enjoy these indulgences when you are exercising. This may help you get excited about exercise! You’ll start looking forward to this “me-time,” while being active and burning many more calories, too.
- Get Creative & Try New Things: Don’t give up hope on finding something active that you will actually enjoy. This is essential because if you enjoy what you are doing, you are more likely to stick with it. There are a lot of unique ways people can move their bodies—just keep researching and thinking outside the box. For example, try using a mini trampoline, experiment with aerial yoga, or take a test-run at a Krav Maga martial arts class. Chances are, if you keep testing and trying, you’ll discover your love for a new physical activity that won’t be so difficult to do on a regular basis.
- Embrace Variety: Don’t let yourself get bored. If you don’t love what you’re doing or it’s getting old, try adding variety into your routine to avoid burn-out. You can do something new every day or a few times per week, from running to Zumba to yoga to strength training. If you keep it fresh and new, you will likely feel more inspired to stick with a workout routine.
- Believe in Yourself: It’s important to understand that to embrace exercise, you may need to shift your mindset. A lot of people think they hate exercise, but in reality they don’t feel confident doing it or they feel anxiety about getting started with something new. For others, carrying extra weight makes exercise physically and/or emotionally overwhelming. By reminding yourself that exercise is a celebration of what your body can do, and that you can do more today than you could do last week, you’ll gain confidence and improve your attitude. Practice self-love, self-discipline, and positive thinking, and you’ll likely find that the sky is the limit when it comes to your health and wellness goals. Lastly, remember that exercise is a chance to focus on yourself, something many of us rarely do. Investing in your mental and physical well-being is the greatest gift you can give yourself, you are WORTH it!
In closing, exercise really is neither friend nor foe—it’s simply an essential piece of the health and wellness pie. Whether you find a partner, find support, or incentivize yourself, make exercise a priority in your life. If you believe you can, then you will, and the benefits of standing up and being active will far outweigh your reasons for sitting still.