The benefits of regular physical activity are numerous and well-documented. It has been said that if there was one pill to cure almost all ills, it would be exercise. However, the knowledge of how important exercise is for our mind, body, and soul does not always translate into the life-long habit of staying physically active.
Many challenges that people face as they begin to embark on a journey to physical fitness may be overcome by setting realistic goals and expectations, and also by having an understanding of their own preferences and physical capabilities.
The first rule of any exercise program is that it must be enjoyable to you. Remember that wellness is a lifelong journey, and if you take up an activity that you dislike, the chances of maintaining it are slim. Think back to what you enjoyed doing as a child, as a teenager, and into adulthood. If you had to pick an activity to do just for fun, what would it be? Exercise can happen outside of a gym and off a track. Maybe you enjoy reading, and don’t want to give up your free time to exercise. Consider downloading audio-books and listening to them while you walk, run, or bike. This is a great way to do something you already enjoy, while also staying active. You may find that you look forward to your daily workout even more, if you know you will get to hear the next chapter in your book!
Now that you have decided what types of physical activity might be enjoyable to you, you must schedule the time for them. A good rule is to schedule your priorities, instead of prioritizing your schedule. Make sure you fit physical activity into your schedule, and write it in just like any other important appointment that you can’t miss. If you know you have trouble staying accountable, find a friend to work out with, or post your schedule around the house so family members can see when you are unavailable. When you make wellness a priority, those around you are more likely to do so as well.
As you begin the activity of your choice, remember to exercise and move at the fitness level you are at currently, not at the fitness level you hope to someday be. People often make the mistake of starting too hard and too fast with any workout program or new physical activity, because they are highly motivated and inspired as they begin. If your body is not ready for the sharp increase in physical activity, you will be more likely to become inured, overly-sore, or just burned out on exercise. It may seem too hard, and many people quit before real gains are made, and before physical activity has become a habit and part of their life. Instead, start slower than you think you should. If you are not a walker, but want to start walking, start with a 10-15 minute walk, instead of a 30-45 minute walk. If you would like to begin yoga, start with a beginner’s class. This will ensure that you retain your confidence, and your desire to keep coming back. This can also help prevent injuries that can occur when you push your body too hard, too fast. As you increase your strength and endurance, you will naturally be able to do more and exercise longer, and you will feel great doing it!