You know it’s bad when the Surgeon General issues a warning that lack of exercise is hazardous to your health. And that was back in ’96. Since then, the stats haven’t improved much, either: 25% of the American population is still sedentary and 60% do not exercise regularly (Reference: http://www.cdc.gov).
For fitness minded folks, we could do worse than to follow the “hour-a-day” prescription outlined by the Surgeon General’s Healthy People Report. It’s just a guideline, of course and, as you already know, any amount of activity packed into your busy schedule is going to earn you healthy rewards. But there are plenty of other reasons to exercise.
“If people exercised only moderately,” says Janet Kneiss, Physical Therapist, “there would be far less incidence of injury. The 15 or so people I see daily, who come in with back and neck problems, usually don’t want to exercise, they want a quick fix.”
The solution as she sees it?
“I think, if people could just reframe the idea of it [exercise] being so much work and focus more on the enjoyment of doing it, they would find the experience more positive.”
So, if exercise alone can keep you injury and disease free, how do you keep it from being just another thing “to-do?” Here are a couple ideas:
Do something you enjoy: This sounds incredibly simple, but it’s worth mentioning. As we’ve already said, most seasoned fitness fanatics as well as neophytes will be the first to tell you: if you do something you enjoy, you will stick to it. What do you like to do? Walk? Run? Spin the treadmill while watching the tube? Or how about branching out and trying something unique and different like kick-boxing or martial arts? It’s a great idea to add variety; it will keep your exercise fresh and interesting.
Mix it up! Speaking of variety, you can also mix up your routine. For example: try splitting up your exercise sessions. If you take a half-hour walk in the morning, take a half-hour to stretch or resistance train in the afternoon. Just adding a bit of variety could spice things up and keep you motivated.
Make an appointment with yourself. Make the commitment to exercise by making an appointment with yourself. Write it on your calendar. If you’ve never exercised before, start slow [10-15 minutes] then build up. Begin exercising three times a week, then slowly build up your time and your frequency. If you love to exercise, try listening to your bio-rhythms. If you can, schedule exercise during peak energy periods.
Strive for your personal best. A friend e-mailed to tell me he was gearing up for another 5K relay race. I wasn’t surprised. When he was 40, never having run before and not having “runners genetics” as he puts it, he decided at 15 pounds overweight and asthmatic, he was going to run. He made up his mind. For a year he trained, dropped the weight and signed up. His first goal was simply to finish. Did he do it: you bet. Did he work through an asthma attack to get across the finish line? He did, but he kept going. Now, he continues to train and improve his time with each race. His secret, he tells me: enjoy the journey, live in the moment, and focus on your personal best.
“So, Laura, what’s the take home message?” you ask. Never mind what everyone else is doing. Stay focused on you, doing what you enjoy and what is fun and exciting for you. Learn everything you can about health and fitness. Then, do the best you can. In so doing, you will be an inspiration for others. To summarize: A quote from one of my favorite inspirational writers Dr. Wayne Dyer, who says: “I don’t want to be better than anybody, I just want to be better than I was yesterday.”