If Exercise were a pill, everybody would be taking it!
As a Health and Fitness Professional I have spent over 20 years using the art and science of Exercise to help people improve their health and performance. Even after studying a Masters Degree in Osteopathy, exercise is still the most proven and effective therapy for helping prevent and overcome pain, disease and injury. If it were a pill it would be the most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine on the planet!
Unfortunately it is not available in pill form (yet!) and the majority of us fail to take even the minimum recommended dosage of this miraculous medicine (150 mins of moderate intensity exercise per week). There are numerous reasons, obstacles and excuses that seem to curtail us from enjoying the bounty of benefits provided by regular exercise, and many of these easily surmountable obstacles start with our perception of what exercise is.
If we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change
Our stereotypes, beliefs and perceptions, are some of the biggest hurdles to experiencing better versions of ourselves, and by simply reframing exercise as something more flexible, enjoyable and rewarding, we can remove some of the resistance that often places nature’s most effective medicine at the back of life’s priority list.
Let’s face it, from an evolutionary standpoint, we are not really hardwired to use significant amounts of physical effort and energy unless it is a life threatening situation, or providing us with an immediate and sizeable reward, such as a hard earned family meal.
Therefore if we are to participate in, and sustain our daily medicine, we need to make it as enjoyable, flexible and rewarding as possible.
If you’re one of those people who know you should be doing some or more of what makes you feel good, hopefully some of the following tips and principles can help you improve your relationship with life’s most powerful health, happiness and beauty treatment!
Develop positive thoughts and emotions related to exercise
There is nothing more powerful than a personal experience of previous mastery and enjoyment to enhance self-belief and confidence. By drawing on past exercise-related experiences that we have felt successful in, we can identify with our ability to learn, persevere, accomplish and sustain similar habits.
Seeing our role models and friends succeed in physical activity and exercise can strengthen the belief that we also possess the capabilities to succeed: “If they can do it, so can I!”
Verbal Social Persuasion
Influential people such as friends, family and coaches can strengthen our self-belief. Regular interaction within a community of like-minded individuals can provide a strong source of accountability and encouragement for reinforcing perseverance and increasing confidence.
Start small with as little as 10 mins per day
The more modest our initial physical activity goals are, the easier they will be to achieve. Small successes build feelings of mastery, confidence and momentum.
Try to use a consistent time and location
Using a consistent and convenient environment that you know you will encounter most days will help improve your adherence. People who exercise at home have been shown to display better adherence and subsequently achieve better results.
Attach your exercise to your predictable routines
List all of your established daily habits such as taking a shower, brushing your teeth, getting out of bed, getting dressed etc. Then try to attach your exercise to the back or front of one of these.
Get the best out of your exercise by using your circadian rhythm
Our physical strength and energy production peak in the late afternoon so this is the best time to exercise for performance.
Developing a network of social support
This can also help us stick with new behaviours. Try joining an activity group, exercising with friends and telling those closest to you about your endevours.
Engage in activities you are both familiar with and enjoy
The more accomplished we feel at performing a particular activity or exercise, the more intensity and effort we will naturally apply. Greater self-efficacy in physical activity reduces the perception of effort!
We can’t go wrong with getting strong!
Beyond the age of 50, maintaining and improving strength (resistance exercise) becomes a priority. Walking and running are not strength exercises! Research suggests that strength loss beyond the age of 50 is commonly in excess of 15% per decade!