Motivation to Stay Fit: Part I

Move more to get more energy.
Knowing all that you now know about why exercise is so great for you, why can’t you motivate yourself to do it? People complain all the time about being “too tired” to exercise. What you may not realize, though, is that your lack of exercise is probably most responsible for making you feel tired. Even active individuals who take a few weeks off from their normal activities begin to feel more sluggish, lethargic, and unmotivated to exercise. The best thing to do in that case is to start moving more. Almost invariably, you will begin to feel more energized rather than less so. For example, when you feel tired, instead of taking a nap, take a short walk; you’ll feel the difference the activity makes in your energy levels, and more than likely, it’ll recharge your batteries far more than a nap.

Always have a backup plan for exercise.
Of course, there are many other barriers to being physically active. It may be as simple as the weather not being conducive to walking outdoors certain days or times of year. You need to have a “Plan B,” a backup plan for being active, such as walking in the mall or doing an alternate activity like an exercise video at home that day. Understandably, not everyone has the same exercise opportunities or facilities available. Among certain segments of the population, for example, unaffordable facilities and unavailable child care, high crime rates, fear for personal safety (such as during outdoor walking), and culturally inappropriate activities can act as barriers. Moreover, some individuals lack confidence in their ability to be physically active (especially if they are overweight), while others lack self-management skills or encouragement and support from family members and friends. You may simply be one of those people who lack the self-motivation to become and stay physically active on their own.

Lose the “bad health” excuse.
Poor health is another major barrier to exercise participation, but not one that can’t be overcome. In fact, becoming more active actually improves your health in many ways; it is simply a misperception that you can’t exercise because of your ailing health. Among the elderly, not just poor health, but also age itself may be considered an exercise barrier. But remember that what you don’t use, you lose. We are all aging and losing muscle mass as time marches on, but you can fight back and prevent some of the decline just by being physically active. Remember this: most of the diseases that you associate with older age are actually caused by a sedentary lifestyle, not by advancing age, so most of them can be reversed to a large extent by being active. For elderly adults, engaging in a “functional tasks” exercise program may be more effective for maintaining and increasing the ability to perform daily activities than a resistance exercise program.

Make exercise more convenient.
Another barrier to exercise is that it is inconvenient, especially when no parks, walking trails, fitness centers, or community recreational centers are located nearby. Likely for that reason, home-based programs appear to be superior to center-based programs in terms of adherence to exercise (especially in the long term) because of the convenience factor–so it may be worthwhile to dust off that stationary bike and bring it out of the basement or attic (or take off the clothes that you have been hanging on it in your bedroom). If nothing else, it’ll help you become more time-efficient–you can watch your favorite TV show or movie or catch up on your reading while you bike. An added bonus is that doing such activities during your exercise session will make the time pass more quickly.

If you’re lacking the time, exercise one step at a time.
Actually, the most common reason adults give for not exercising on a regular basis is lack of time, so being able to do two things at once is important. Moreover, if you can stop thinking of exercise as only planned activities and instead simply try to move more–anytime, anywhere–you will be amazed at how much more active you will become and how little time you will feel you are sacrificing to do it. Any movement you do increases the total amount of energy that you expend in a day. In fact, for most people, the majority of their calorie use during the day comes from unstructured activities (as discussed in step 2) rather than from a formal exercise plan. Managing to take just 2,000 more steps every day can make the difference between additional weight gain and maintaining or losing weight. Wear an inexpensive pedometer as a simple way to motivate yourself to take those steps.

Come back next week for some more tips.

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