Statistics measured by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition present some daunting numbers: less than 5% of the American population participates in the recommended 30 minutes of exercise each day. That translates to only one in three Americans getting a healthy amount of physical activity each week.
Starting to exercise regularly is not an easy task. Whether it’s time, money, or drive that is lacking, sometimes it feels as though there are more deterrents than motivators to get active.
Still, there are certain steps you can take to get onboard the exercise bandwagon.
Find an Activity You Like
While physical work at its core, exercising should still contain some element of fun. There are more individual and team activities than ever before, so don’t think your exercise has to be limited to the treadmill or stationary bike.
From underwater hockey to adult gymnastics to geocaching, there is an endless list of physical activities that defy the conventional. The blog “Nerd Fitness” has a few ideas, and includes a list of other ways you can get motivated to workout.
Remember that exercising isn’t strictly about the physical, either. Team sports and recreational leagues often have built-in social time, while activities such as yoga and tai-chi are known to help people achieve a state of mental and emotional peace. Find an exercise activity (or two, or three, or four) that help you move your body, but also complement some other aspect of your life.
Set Small, Attainable Goals
Exercising is a wholly personal task. Everyone has their own pace and foundation of fitness, and one of the first steps in starting to exercise regularly is to discover yours. There’s no sense in looking at a friend who was able to run five miles after just one week and say “I want to do that, too.” While it’s good to have goals, you’re far more likely to not get discouraged if you make them attainable from the start. You can always incrementally increase the challenge from there.
Convert Those Goals into Habits
The best way to ensure you’re exercising regularly is to get into a routine, and to turn your fitness goals into fitness habits.
Charles Duhigg is an expert on habit, and wrote about this topic in his bestselling book, “The Power of Habit.” In an interview for the blog “A Life of Productivity,” he said there are a few best practices to creating new habits, including setting aside cues for that behavior such as the time of day when you exercise and the people with whom you do that activity. Knowing you’ll wake up each morning to go running with Friend X will create the framework for your new habit.
Duhigg also argues for the importance of rewards: by indulging in a certain reward after your exercise, your brain will subconsciously start to associate positively with your new workout regime. Follow these two steps, the author suggests, and your goal will become a regular habit in no time at all.
Make Exercise a Conscious Part of Your Day
This is something that can be done at all times, not just when donning gym wear. Once you recognize the physical elements in your everyday activity you can start making choices to include more of it throughout your day. For example, if your office is on the sixth floor, you can identify the stairs as a prospective way to get your heart pumping. Do you usually go through the Starbucks drive through on your way to work? Perhaps think of parking first and walking to the shop during a morning break. While you’re at it, maybe set up a standing desk! Small efforts to include fitness in your life will go a long way in maintaining your pledge to exercise regularly.
If you need some tech-enabled motivation, wearable fitness trackers such as FitBit and JawBone can help monitor your steps-per-day, sleep schedule, heart rate, and beyond.
The next step is yours – consider how you want to make exercising a regular part of your life and get moving!