April is #MoveMoreMonth, so it can be a time to reflect on our activity level. Before you stop reading this, I promise this isn’t a post trying to guilt you into exercising more! To be honest, sometimes I think “Move More” can sound a little harsh. For some people, it can be challenging to get regular exercise in, whether it’s due to a medical condition, lack of motivation/support, limited access to exercise equipment, etc. Of course, on the other hand, I understand how incredibly important physical activity is for our health and the many benefits it can offer. From cardiovascular health to brain health to weight management, sleep, and stress levels, to name a few! I think in general we hear about these benefits pretty often, yet sometimes we find it hard to get activity in regularly.
From my experience as a dietitian, I’ve noticed a couple things that seem to impact people’s exercise levels. First, people may choose an activity that they absolutely hate because it’s “good” for them. Second, they may start off too intensely…going from no activity to aiming for an hour every single day. Third, there could be some challenges with mindset. For example, if the sole focus of working out is to burn calories because we feel guilty for how much we ate or think we need to “earn” our food, that negative mindset can make it hard to stick to. Fourth, people get very busy and find it hard to make the time to exercise. I’m sure there are other barriers to activity as well, but these are just a few I’ve observed.
There are a few suggestions I think can be helpful if we are stuck in a physical activity rut. One: Choose an activity you actually like! It seems obvious but I’ve often noticed people thinking they have to be active in a certain way in order to benefit from it, which really isn’t true! Second: Start out slow. It can be hard to be active especially if we aren’t used to it, so no need to start out with a marathon. Think of smaller ways to incorporate it throughout the day that don’t feel overwhelming, as this really is better than nothing! And third: Try to be kind to yourself and pay attention to the benefits you experience rather than worrying about the weight/calorie aspect or if the activity is “good enough.” If you’re not getting any pleasure out of a certain activity, try to find something that helps you to feel strong, empowered, and overall good. And, make it FUN! Maybe that means adding in some music or listening to a podcast you enjoy or trying to find a workout buddy. Even if you don’t have a friend locally to exercise with, a lot of people are doing virtual workouts with friends these days! For me personally, I enjoy taking walks (especially with friends or while talking to a friend on the phone) and dancing around the house to my favorite songs (I look super coordinated and skilled when I do this, obviously 😉). Both of these activities make me feel happy, relieve stress, and give me energy. There is no right or wrong here—it is just important to pay attention to your preferences and what kind of activities impact you in a positive way. And as far as finding the time to get active, as mentioned above even a little bit of activity is better than nothing! Sometimes actually scheduling it on your calendar a few days a week at a certain time can help to make it a priority, or trying to think of ways to incorporate it into activities you already need to complete for the day (fitting a short walk into a work lunch break, walking a couple extra loops around the store while doing errands, taking stairs more, etc.) And, we may be more likely to want to find the time if it’s an activity we enjoy instead of something we dread.
Current physical activity recommendations encourage including both aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises, so it’s great to consider both of these categories and which specific exercises in each category we would be interested in. If you’re looking for some exercise support, let us know! We are currently offering a Walking Group to anyone interested. 😊 What are your favorite activities and what ways have you found that make it easier to get activity in regularly? Share in the comments below!
By Julia Blackford