Let me start by saying that I cannot imagine my day without exercise. At least some simple stretch in the morning or a short walk in the evening must be a part of my everyday routine.
Exercise has endless health benefits; it’s not only favorable to our physical health but also mental health. Therapy with exercise is often implemented for persons with mild to moderate depression or anxiety. Because of dopamine and serotonin being released, exercise importantly heightens our mood.
Two-thirds of adults worldwide do not exercise enough and obesity is becoming a big issue worldwide. Physical activity decreases fat around the waist and total body fat. However, obesity is far more complex and not related only to the quantity of exercise.
In this post, I share some facts about fitness and physical wellbeing along with some tips from my life.
The power of walking
If you are unsure about what type of exercise you would like to do or simply want to be more active, consider walking. You can start with short everyday walks, maybe to work or a grocery store, and then proceed to longer walks or even hikes.
Walking is an underrated type of exercise. It is very beneficial for our health and our mind as walking can give us some space and time to think. Walking improves circulation, strengthens muscles and joints, improves sleep, and lightens our mood. It is also one of the most natural bodily movements.
Furthermore, walking can be a great start to living an active and healthier life! It helps you get fitter to be better prepared for other types of exercises, such as cardio or strength training.
The start can be difficult
For me, the hardest part of many of my endeavors is always the beginning. The start of something new can be scary, uncertain, and uncomfortable.
During the first few workouts, you may feel weird, awkward, or completely exhausted, but remember that it is because you are trying out a new thing. You should be proud of yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone.
I remember my first time in the gym. I was not really sure how the workout is supposed to go; which exercises should I start with, should I do one part of my body or more, and what I should finish with. But I stuck around until I figured out what works best for me.
When you find yourself struggling with starts (also applies to other areas of life) remember that you need to start somewhere. Any start, no matter how unprofessional or odd, is better than no start.
Going to the gym felt really intimidating to me at first. I saw all the muscular men in the weights room and others who seemed to know what they were doing. In the middle of everybody else, I stood, for the first time in the gym, not knowing how to use a treadmill or other weight lifting machines.
Then I remembered that everybody in the gym was once a beginner, just like I was. Everybody had to start somewhere. And this gave me the strength to continue as I knew that I too, can become as determined and strong as others in the gym seemed to be.
Gym in general can be an intimidating space for women as it is still quite male-dominated. A friendly reminder for all women out there: strength training is for women, too. Gym should be a safe space for us, too.
If you want to make sure, you are not starting wrong, a good thing to do can be to hire a personal trainer, even just for a few hours. They can help you by showing you exercises, or recommend how you go about your training depending on your goals and wishes.
If you cannot afford a personal trainer or are not comfortable with doing exercise this way, you can always join a class. There are a number of different classes available in gyms. You can also check out classes online, if you are looking for a specific class like yoga or Pilates.
Commit to exercise
If you do not have a problem with starting to exercise but with committing to weekly exercise to stay healthy, I think it’s a good idea to make an official commitment. There are different ways to commit to exercise and you can choose which one is the most plausible to you.
The first option is to sign up for a class. This is great for beginners and everybody who finds it hard to make time for exercise. By signing up for a Zumba class and knowing that the class takes place every Monday at 8 PM you will have no more time-related excuses since you knew for the whole week that the class is coming up the following Monday.
Another trick is to pay for the class in advance. Pay for a month or two of your classes so you make sure you do not quit. Moreover, by paying for your classes you will feel committed, as you will not want your money to go to waste. If you spent your money on something, you might as well take full advantage of it.
Having a friend to exercise with you can help with commitment, too. Talk to a like-minded friend and pick up the day and time for exercise. Choose an activity that you both enjoy so that you are both excited to do it.
I love to run with my sister as we support each other throughout the run and bond. Moreover, even if I do not feel like exercising, just the mere thought of bailing on her gets me going.
Set your goals
When you decide to exercise, it is good to set a goal. Goals are important for increasing motivation and commitment to exercise.
The reason I exercise is simply to be healthy and fit. I love my body and I love what it can do, so I decided to nourish and use it. For me, being fit means that I can run a 5K and feel phenomenal afterward.
However, being fit means something different for everybody; for some fit can mean running half a marathon or 2K. We are all unique and it is key that you find what works for you.
The goal of your exercise can be to become healthier, more toned, and stronger, or it can be to become skinnier. Usually, I advocate for aiming to be healthy, but a skinny goal may work for some.
When setting your goals, think about SMART goals and use them to guide your goal setting. SMART is an acronym and stands for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Your goal should be clear and specific so that you can focus your efforts on it. It should be possible to track your progress so you stay motivated and determined. Assessing progress is vital to help you stay focused and be excited when getting closer to achieving your goal.
In order to progress and be successful, your goal needs to be realistic and attainable. Furthermore, the chosen goal must be important to you so that you are internally motivated to achieve it.
Last but not least, every goal needs a target date. Give yourself a deadline to focus on and have something to work forward. This helps to prevent everyday tasks from taking priority over your longer-term goals.
Do whatever works best for you
Depending on your goal and personal preferences, try out different forms of exercise. You can try everything from weight lifting, running and cardio exercises to hiking, dancing, or yoga.
If you try out different types of exercise, you can learn which suits you best and makes you feel strong and empowered.
Personally, dancing and running are my favorite, but I also like yoga and strength workouts. However, different types of exercise feel different to different people. Some may feel empowered doing yoga, but it may be weird or unflattering for others, as some bodies physically cannot get into all yoga positions.
I also like to combine different types of exercise. For example, I would do running and endurance training once or twice per week and do strength exercises the other days. Combining cardio and strength exercises works well for me.
What is more, exercise as much as feels right to you. Plan workouts depending on your schedule; if your schedule is currently very busy, try to find time for exercise twice per week. Then you can compensate with walking to your friend’s house or to work.
If you have more time or if your goal requires you to put in more effort, it would make sense to exercise four to six times per week or so.
Again, this depends on each individual. I usually do not plan my exercise throughout the week; I do it anytime that I feel like working out or running.
Nevertheless, especially if busy, it is beneficial to write workout sessions in your schedule so you intently plan it and make time for it in advance. Not having enough time is one of the leading excuses to avoid exercise, especially in our society. I, however, believe that one just has to make time for exercise and set it as a priority.
We are all different and some may thrive in the morning sunrise whereas others prefer to exercise after sunset. Find the time when you feel the strongest and do your exercise then.
It is essential that you feel good while exercising because this is the greatest factor that predicts exercise in the future. Compared to feeling good after exercise or knowing the health benefits of physical activity, genuinely enjoying being active accounts the most for exercise continuation.
This is why it is so important that you find a type(s) of exercise, which makes you feel content and strong, and stick to it.
For example, I really enjoy exercise. I love how it detaches me from the busy world, how it empties my mind, how it makes me feel during and after. For me, exercise is the best medicine for sadness, boredom, or anger.
This could well be a reason why I cannot imagine my day without exercise. And I have been active for as long as I can remember. I have taken dance classes since I was 4 years old and started running and working out at home about 6 years ago. I currently practice cheerleading but do my individual workouts on days without practice.
Finally, do not forget about your rest days! Some of you may be extremely hardworking and determined, but this does not mean you should exercise hard every day. Over exercising can actually be detrimental to our health.
Have a rest day at least once per week to let your muscles recover. Rest days are, in fact, just as important as workouts for gaining muscle and becoming stronger.
You can, however, go for a walk on a rest day, stretch, or do some relaxing yoga.
I would like to emphasize again that everybody is unique and what may feel right for me does not necessarily work for my friends, or you. Listen to your body and your mind to find the type of exercise, level, and frequency that empower you and make you happy.
By starting to exercise you are on a good path to becoming healthier and leading a fulfilling life. Nevertheless, do not forget about nutrition. Along with exercise, it is key to ensure your eating habits are good. It is best to eat everything in moderation.
If you are training hard, be careful to consume enough protein to build and repair tissues, and carbohydrates and fats for energy.
How do you stay active and what is your favorite type of exercise? Let me know in the comments below.