HOW DO YOU DEDINF EXERCISE? In the past, exercise was defined as physical activity that produced aerobic fitness. To qualify, it had to involve large muscle groups of the body (like in the legs), be rhythmic, elevate the heart rate into a "target zone," and keep it there for at least 20 minutes. These definition-limited options to exercises like jogging, power walking, swimming, rowing, cycling, cross-country skiing, and stair stepping. If you did not like these options, too bad. Other activities like dancing, mowing the lawn, gardening, and light sporting activities were considered useless because they did not produce high levels of fitness. Today, research shows that moderate physical activities are worthwhile and are highly effective in managing weight, promoting health, and reducing stress. In addition, there is increased respect for the process of exercise--doing something daily, regardless of the amount of fitness produced. The key ingredient is movement. Get moving and keep moving, but do not get hung up on the particulars. This approach opens up a smorgasbord of physical activities from which to choose. It also offers a variety of ways to approach activities, which increases the likelihood you can find exercises you will enjoy and sustain as part of your lifestyle.
HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED? Selecting an exercise that is right for you is only the first step in successful exercise. Here are proven strategies to help motivate you to start exercising and stay with it. Develop an exercise habit. It takes weeks to form a habit. So keep at it, knowing the more consistent you are in the beginning, the more fixed your new activity will become. Top your "to do" list. Reserve a time slot each day for working out, and do not let anything interfere. Not setting a time leaves you vulnerable to trying to find the time, which typically does not work. The best time to exercise is the most convenient time for you. Although you may be a "morning person," if mornings are too busy, they simply will not work. Do not let others lead you astray. Inform everyone of your exercise time and that you would appreciate their respecting your choice. When approached, invite others to either come along or come back later. Be patient with yourself. Some days you will be more motivated or have more time than other days. When possible, do more. When you cannot, do less, or do something different. When you cannot exercise for a while because of illness, injury, or demands on your time, back off without guilt. A brief period of not exercising is not a disaster.
PLAN AHEAD. Be prepared to exercise. It decreases the inertia of getting moving when demands arise. If you intend to exercise when you get home from work, for example, change immediately into your exercise clothing. Team up. Exercising with others can motivate you when you would rather not. However, it can have a down side. A less motivated or less optimistic partner, for example, can drain you. An option is to have an "exercise date" once or twice a week that is special (on weekends, for example), and to exercise alone the rest of the time. Choose the approach that works for you. Set achievable goals. The more easily you accomplish your goals, the more likely you are to sustain them. Set goals that emphasizes the process (for example, exercising daily for 1 month) as well as the product (for example, jogging 3 miles in 30 minutes). When you achieve a goal, reward yourself. Decide on a reward ahead of time to spur you on. Have fun. Customize your approach to make exercise more enjoyable. For instance, read, watch TV, or listen to your favorite music while pedaling a stationary cycle. Affirm your efforts. Your subconscious believes what it hears, without reasoning. Affirm aloud each morning (when no one is listening!) that you are vibrant and looking forward to a chance to exercise. Then, when the opportunity for exercise arises, your mind will encourage you. Listen to your body. If you exercise regularly, your body may at times say no. Take the hint. You may be doing too much, and overtraining can dampen enthusiasm, causing you to quit. Shift to a milder form of exercise, or take a break. A respite may inspire you to come back with renewed vigor and determination. Complement exercise. In addition to exercising, be sure to eat a low fat, balanced diet, sleep well, and reduce unhealthy influences like smoking and high stress.
ACTIVITIES TO SUIT ALL PERSONALITIES. It is a big help to know your personality and choose your exercise to match. Keeping the options below in mind can help you pick an exercise that feels right for you, rather than choosing an activity because you believe you should. You can also mix things up by, for example, including a competitive activity one day, followed the next day by something that is fun or productive. Competitive. Choose activities that satisfy your nature, such as tennis, racquetball, basketball, volleyball, or soccer. Playful. Try dancing (any type), in-line skating, ice skating, water or snow skiing, or horseback riding. Strong work ethic. Getting the job done counts as good exercise. Try mowing the lawn, gardening, doing carpentry or housework, or washing the car. If you are a LONER: Exercise in the privacy of your home, or take a walk in the park, hike a trail, or try tai chi, yoga, or the martial arts. If you are a SOCIAL BUTTERFLY: Mall walking, a golf foursome (without a golf cart), group hikes, and group bicycling are good choices. Join a gym to exercise and socialize. If you are, the GOAL ORIENTED: Choose traditional fitness activities. Run further and faster, lift more, etc. How about the COUCH POTATO: Make a commitment to do something, no matter how trivial, every day (e.g., climb six flights of stairs, walk to a nearby store). Build on your success.