There's no disputing the fact that regular exercise is good for you. Physically, mentally, emotionally--the benefits have been proven time and again. Unfortunately, despite the benefits of movement, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that only 20% of American adults get the recommended 2.5 hours weekly of moderate physical activity, or 1.5 hours weekly of vigorous activity.Today, we're not going to preach the benefits of exercise to you—as we are certain you've heard those before. Instead, we're going to share some tips for how to make movement a priority. When you dedicate time to taking care of YOU, it becomes much easier to turn daily activity into a regular habit.
Stephen Covey, the author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, explained, "The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities." In other words, take a proactive approach to prioritization. Determine what your priorities are for each day, and set up your calendar accordingly. Depending on your preferences, that might look like fitting in your workout first thing in the morning, during the time of day your feel most energetic, or even timing it for when a specific instructor teaches your favorite group fitness class.
Speaking of scheduling, actually adding workouts to the calendar is a proven success tool for those that make fitness part of their lifestyle. SparkPeople blogger Nicole Nichols explains, "When you add a workout to your calendar, it becomes as much a part of your day as going to work or paying the bills. And when other things come up—especially things that aren't mandatory—you can pull out your calendar and see that you might have a conflict (your exercise session), so you can turn down or re-schedule other things."
That ability to build your day around a workout has a lot to do with being accountable to yourself. In her book Girl, Wash Your Face, lifestyle guru Rachel Hollis makes this analogy about canceling workouts. "I used to do that all the time until I realized how hard I was fighting to keep my word to other people while quickly canceling on myself. What if you had a friend who constantly flaked on you? What if every other time you made plans she decided not to show up? Would you trust them when they committed to something? No way. And that level of distrust and apprehension applies to you too." Hollis goes on to suggest keeping commitments to yourself allows you to be able to take the proactive approach to calendaring your priorities that we mentioned earlier. By scheduling priorities as commitments you've made to yourself, keeping those commitments becomes more empowering than a simple check on your to-do list. And best of all, you feel physically and emotionally better.
The following are some of the things we recommend to make regular activity a habit.
- Exercise with a friend. Just like Rachel Hollis pointed out, most of us are more likely to cancel on ourselves than we are to cancel on a friend. Knowing your friend is counting on you to join them for a workout helps make the event a priority, and forces you to put it on your calendar. Plus, science has shown there are additional health benefits from exercising with friends.
- Try activity that benefits someone (or something) else. If you can't sync workout times with friends, consider syncing up with a pet. Pets are just like us, they need daily activity to thrive. The American Heart Association studied heart health and pet ownership, and found a correlation between healthy hearts and pets--with the most benefits seen by dog owners. Your fitness journey could begin with committing to walking the dog for just 15 minutes a day. No dog of your own? See the same benefits by volunteering to play with or exercise shelter pets, or sign up to be a dog walker (and get paid for it) with a service like Wag.
- Find a form of movement that you love. Finding one activity you enjoy is key. It makes it easier to arrange your schedule if you are excited to go to that particular activity. At Cal Fit, we have a wide variety of group fitness class formats and welcome members of all sizes and abilities to join in, making it easy to try something new. Don't limit yourself to the gym; if you love being outside, set aside time to paddle, hike, bike, or walk along Sacramento's waterways.
- Meet with a personal trainer. Many California Family Fitness members find that working with a trainer gives them an added sense of accountability. Since they need to schedule sessions with their trainer, it's another way to put a workout on the calendar that they aren't tempted to cancel. Other members have seen success with small group training, like our Body Fit classes, since the team atmosphere gives them a supportive group of like-minded friends to workout alongside.
- Plan your workouts. Along with knowing when you'll exercise, knowing how you'll exercise is key to making fitness a habit. Planning your workouts in advance can help you avoid injury from overuse, prevent gym boredom, and help you maximize--or even shorten--your exercise time. This can be as simple as noting that you'll be attending Terri's 5 PM yoga sculpt class, or you could work with a trainer to develop a personalized weekly plan based on your fitness goals.
- Eliminate excuses. If you find yourself struggling to keep scheduled meetings with the stair climber or your favorite Zumba class, focus on eliminating the things that are getting in your way. Pack your gym bag the night before with everything you need (including your pre or post workout snacks) and leave it by the door. Look for little activities during the day that are wasting your time, and make an effort to cut back on the time they are robbing from you--we happen to know that it is possible to check Instagram while running on a treadmill, for instance.
Your physical, mental, and emotional health is worth an investment of your time. And like any investment, it's okay to start small. Try scheduling just one fitness activity per week that you'll commit to, and when you've successfully made that a priority, a habit forms. Remember that it's easy to make things you enjoy a priority, so have some fun exploring lots of different activities. Make movement an enjoyable break from the stresses of your day, so you'll be excited to put workouts on your calendar. When you do, we are confident that you'll enjoy the benefits of a healthier, happier YOU.