March is here and now might be the time that those New Year’s fitness resolutions to exercise more, start running, pick up tennis, etc. start to fade away. Any number of reasons could be the cause… life gets busy, there is an unprecedented winter storm… you name it. It is all too easy to push those goals aside when the going gets tough. However, there are some foolproof ways that can help ensure that you continue to work towards your fitness goals, even if it is in a different way than you initially imagined.
Before we dive into ways to keep your New Year’s fitness resolution, we should consider the important difference between exercise and physical activity:
- Physical activity – any bodily movement produced by the contraction of muscles that results in an increase in caloric expenditure
- Exercise – a type of physical activity that is planned and consists of repetitive movements; performed to improve or maintain physical fitness
In short, exercise is a type of physical activity, and there are many other activities that fall under the physical activity umbrella. Brisk walking, heavy cleaning, playing recreational sports, mowing/gardening are all examples of physical activity. Often, we think that exercise is the only way we can achieve our fitness goals, but for some people the idea of lifting dumbbells in a gym is less than appealing, and that is okay.
Adults benefit from regular physical activity, and that can be achieved through many means. The U.S Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults should perform at least 150 – 300 minutes (2.5 – 5 hours)/week of moderate intensity OR 75 – 150 minutes (1.25 – 2.5 hours)/week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity.
Benefits of regular fitness and physical activity:
- Maintenance of cardiovascular health
- Improvements in cognitive function
- Better sleep
- Increased energy
- Improvements in mood
- Maintenance of healthy bones, tendons, muscles
No matter what your initial New Year’s resolution might have been in relation to exercise, reframing it as a physical activity goal may make it more achievable.
Tips to help you stay committed to fitness:
- Shake it up – avoid exercise boredom!
- There is nothing worse than dreading your workout or feeling bored while doing it. Continually introducing new types of physical activity into your routine will help you stay interested in being active and prevent you from getting into an exercise rut.
- Variety is also the key to continuing to make improvements in muscle strength, and endurance. If you perform the same routine over and over the body will adapt to it and your progress may plateau.
- Make physical activity a part of your daily routine
- At first, it may be beneficial to schedule your physical activity, as you would schedule a meeting or appointment. This will help you stay committed and make it less likely that you will skip/cancel your workouts.
- Incorporate more small bouts of physical activity into your day. This will help you get into the habit of being physically active so if you do miss a scheduled workout/game/class, you can rest easy knowing you were still active throughout your day.
- Examples: parking far away from your destination, taking the stairs instead of elevator, walking to the far bathroom/breakroom at work, etc.
- Don’t be afraid to reward yourself
- If you find yourself struggling with motivation, planning a reward for yourself when you complete your activity might help you follow through.
- The reward should be something small and meaningful, such as buying yourself new running socks, watching an extra episode of your favorite show, etc.
- The rewards will be extrinsic at first but as you build up the habit of being physically active you will become intrinsically motivated and no longer need the external rewards.
In summary, there are many, easy ways to be more active on a daily basis that can help contribute to your overall health and wellness. Don’t get discouraged if you fall behind on your fitness resolution- reframe it as a physical activity mindset and you are bound for success.
- Physical activity guidelines for Americans: https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/pdf/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf
- American College of Sports Medicine, Riebe D. ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription. Tenth ed. Philadelphia; 4: Wolters Kluwer; 2018.
- Waehner P. How to Stay Active and Exercise During the Holidays. Verywell Fit. https://www.verywellfit.com/exercise-during-the-holidays-1231555. Accessed December 3, 2018
- 5 steps to start a fitness program. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/fitness/art-20048269. Published August 20, 2016. Accessed December 3, 2018.