Have you ever heard the expression “use it or lose it”? It’s true! If you don’t use your body, you will surely lose it. Your muscles will become flabby and weak, your heart and lungs won’t function efficiently and your joints will be stiff and easily injured. Inactivity is as much of a health risk as smoking. As we age, our muscles naturally shorten. We need to stretch them to keep our bodies, muscles and our joints healthy.
Exercise is important because it:
- Helps prevent disease
- Improves stamina
- Strengthens and tones muscles
- Enhances flexibility
- Controls weight
- Improves quality of life
Exercise also reduces stress, lifts mood aids restorative sleep – and much more!
Discover more on the benefits of exercise on this website.
“Success is determined by how you handle setbacks.”
Nine tips on how to stick to exercise:
1. Make the time: It might seem like you don’t have enough time in your day for exercise, but you probably do – you just have to make it a priority.
Here are some ways to prioritise exercise:
Set an appointment: Pick out the times when you want to exercise, and schedule ahead. Keep your appointment with yourself ironclad, and don’t let other engagements interfere. If you keep a calendar on your phone or computer, set alarms that will remind you of your workout time.
Replace a habit: Most of us have unnecessary and not particularly enjoyable habits, such as watching TV, which could be replaced by (or augmented with) exercising. Ask yourself how much time you spend on this habit, and whether or not you could exercise at the same time. If the answer is yes, make a new rule that stipulates (for instance) that you can only watch television if you’re exercising at the same time.
Use it as social time: If you have a standing appointment with a friend or family member to spend time together, see if he or she is willing to incorporate exercise into that time. Do social activities like playing a game such as tennis, or dancing, or going for a walk together.
Routine is the key: After about two weeks of the routine, you will find it a lot less of a chore.
Don’t give up: Even if you once miss exercising or you get sick and can’t exercise that day, get back to exercising as soon as you are well again and don’t let it be an excuse for not exercising. Stick to it, no matter what. Remember: “Success is determined by how we handle set-backs.”
2. Find an activity you enjoy: If you like exercising, you’re more likely to stick with it. Not all workouts are at a gym: try biking, inline skating, rowing, swimming, hockey, netball or a rugby team; you could even dance in your bedroom with an iPod. Enjoyment is the key to sticking with it.
If you get bored while you exercise, try participating in a more social activity such as a team sport.
3. Stay accountable: Keep track of when you exercise and for how long. Make notes in your calendar, download an exercise App onto your phone or I-pad, or keep an exercise journal. Writing down what you actually do will keep you accountable and show you how hard you’re actually working. Additionally, looking back and seeing how much you’ve done can create an inspiring sense of accomplishment.
4. Exercise with someone else: Find a friend or someone else to exercise with. You are more likely to exercise and stick to it if you exercise with someone who holds you accountable. It is also more fun to exercise together. Or try and find a group to exercise with – an outdoor boot-camp, a class at the gym like step aerobics, zumba, aqua aerobics, a Yoga class – these are all great sociable exercise options.
5. Start with reasonable goals: Don’t set out to start a rigorous regimen right from the beginning. Instead, start exercising at a reasonable pace and increase as soon as you stop feeling challenged. Try 30 minutes, three times a week and see how you feel.
Avoid burnout. Working yourself too hard at first can lead to muscle strain and fatigue, and associating exercise with pain can make you more reluctant to work out next time.
The benefits of any exercise program will diminish if it’s disrupted too frequently. A “stop-start” routine is not only ineffective, but can cause injuries. Being consistent with exercise, therefore, is probably the most important factor in achieving desired results.
People often assume that more is better. Wrong! Doing too much too soon or performing intense exercises on a daily basis can have a detrimental effect, such as muscle/tendon strains, loss of lean tissue, and fitness-level plateaus.
If you are a beginner, start off slower than you think you should. Three days per week is realistic, safe and effective. If you are experienced, do cardiovascular (aerobic) exercises such as walking, jogging and bicycling for no more than 200 minutes per week, with no more than 60 minutes per session.
6. Track your measurements. Try keeping a soft tape measure handy and measuring your waist and hip size. You might build muscle and gain weight, but you’ll lose inches.
Write down your measurements. As you start to trim up, seeing your progress can increase your confidence.
Measure your neck, arms and ankles as well.
7. Drink water! Drinking water is absolutely the best thing you can do for your body. Always bring water to your workout sessions. Remember not to drink excessive amounts of plain water after strenuous workouts – your body loses salts through sweat, and too much plain water can help to flush out whatever is left. Sports drinks can be helpful for intense workouts, but consider the sugar content if your goal is to lose weight.
Drink enough water to replace what is lost. Amount will vary based on your body weight, climate, effort level, etc. Dehydration would slow your weight-loss goals, increase danger of muscle damage, and could make you feel nauseated. Avoid coffee and soda drinks, for better results.
8. Stay motivated. As you keep working out and building up your strength, your workouts will probably become easier. Don’t allow yourself to get complacent, though – as soon as your current regimen feels easy, change it up and try something different. Or increase the time you exercise. Instead of walking for 30 min., go for a 45 min walk or even an hour. Or maybe try another type of exercise now.
9. Stretch. Many people forget to stretch or make the excuse that they don’t have the time. Flexibility is very important, so make the time! Stretching can be done every day, but stick to a minimum of three times per week in order to reap the benefits. When the body is warmed up, such as after a workout session, perform five to 10 stretches that target the major muscle groups. Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds. You can download an App with a stretch programme, or ask at your gym – or join a Yoga class.
- Politely refuse offers to drive you short distances with a car when you could walk instead.
- Try NOT to exercise too late in the evening. If you exercise before going to bed, your metabolism is increased, endorphins are released and it will make it much more difficult to fall asleep naturally. If the only time you can exercise is in the evening, try to do it as early as possible before going to bed to allow your body to rest. Best if you can exercise before dinner. Or if you can’t then a good time for a walk is 30 min. after dinner as the blood has started to absorb some glucose for energy.
- Don’t have enough time for a good workout? Take a walk during your lunch break, do crunches and jumping jacks while watching TV, or pace while talking on the phone… In other words, take every opportunity to exercise.
- Play up-beat music to keep the pace and motivate yourself.
- Don’t worry if you’re not seeing quick results. It normally takes about eight weeks for results to really kick in visually. Remember, you can’t do it all in one sitting. Regular effort, with enthusiasm, is the key!
- Go to bed early and have plenty of rest on days you exercise. Muscles grow and repair themselves during deep-sleep.
- If you’re not used to exercising, it will be hard for the first week or so to keep yourself from using an elevator. Keep walking and you’ll soon find you can easily climb that flight of stairs without getting out of breath. If you live in a crowded city and use train stations and the subway, walking has an added benefit: you avoid the crowds as not many people take the stairs!
- Consider alternative forms of exercise. Biking, indoor climbing, Yoga, Tai-chi, martial arts, etc., will all challenge your muscles in different ways, and provide some fun and variety.
Believe in yourself. Never give up!