Exercise… for some this word brings a smile to their faces, to others, it may even seem like a bad word! Although it is well known there are numerous benefits that come with regular exercise, putting it into everyday practice is a whole other ball game!
For some, you may not realize that you could feel and move better than you do right now! But…is there room for improvement? The good news is small changes can make a big difference, especially if you can consistently keep it up. Trust the knowledge you have gained over the years and make a list of things that you could, should and would do to optimize your health. Ideas can be anything YOU want to do such as: drinking water, quitting smoking, taking medication regularly, stress management, healthy eating, moderating alcohol consumption, exercise and others.
The next step would be to choose one or two things from this list to create an action plan. Action plans are great tools to focus your planning to realistic actionable steps over the coming week.
The gut test is another important step. This will help to ensure you are not biting off more that you can chew, so to speak. Ask yourself, how confident am I that I will complete my action plan this week? Confidence can be rated on a scale from zero, not confident to 10, totally confident. If you are not at seven or higher, then, go back and tweak your action plan. Consider lessening how much (time, distance or amount) or how often (times per week) to increase your confidence to at least seven.
Monitor your progress with the plan over the week, keeping a diary may be helpful. Assess how you did at week’s end and repeat by planning again for the following week. Looking ahead in your schedule will help you successfully plan the time for your actions to fit into your routine.
Finally, it is okay to challenge the thoughts in your head. You know, the one’s that support putting off activities that you want to do for your health….like exercise.
Now that you know the importance of realistic goals that won’t overwhelm you and tracking your progress, let’s list a few other ideas to keep motivation high, allowing you to stick with your exercise plans.
Delete guilt…you are not perfect; you will miss a day or two and it’s important to accept this. It will allow you to be better prepared to deal with any setbacks. Focus on you…there will always be someone faster, more flexible or fit. This is not a competition, you are training for life, and a healthier life. Focus on your goals, your workout and stay in the moment.
Accountability…find a cheering squad. Tell a close friend or family member about your goals and ask them to check in with you to see how it’s going from time to time.
Choose activities you enjoy…it is much nicer to do something you like and find fun! Changing it up a bit will help lessen the risk of your workouts becoming stale.
Break it up…on busy days, look for 10 min breaks you can add in quick workouts like a brisk walk or mini strength workout with stairs, squats and crunches.
Pay attention…notice how you feel afterwards. Do you notice any overall changes in your body or mood from being more active? If so, use this as motivation to fit in your next workout. These changes will only last if you keep doing what you’ve been doing.
Finally, be kind to yourself. Consider what activity or exercise you did last week when deciding on how much to do this week. Only increase with small steps toward your fitness goals, this will be a much more rewarding journey than trying to change everything overnight.
For more information about any of the free services offered by your local Family Health Team ask your doctor or nurse practitioner during your next visit, visit the website www.afhto.ca or google ‘family health team locations.’
Sandy Turner is a Registered Kinesiologist with the Minto-Mapleton Family Health Team