Tips for Keeping Physically Active During the (Entire) New Year

January 20, 2015

If "sitting on tiny cycling/spinning seats" isn't for you,

find something you enjoy.

ST. LOUIS - Experts with Mercy's Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilition program are providing tips to keep your heart healthy, before you need to visit them. This month's tips focus on sustaining your exercise routine the entire year.

Most of us would agree, when we get regular physical activity we feel better. It’s because there are tons of benefits associated with physical activity and a regular exercise routine. For example, research has shown regular physical activity:

  • Decreases morbidity and mortality rates
  • Reduces the risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and colon cancer
  • Helps control weight and maintain lean muscle tissue while participating in a safe diet program
  • Diminishes feelings of anxiety, depression and general negative mood states
  • Improves self esteem and self concept
  • Enhances ability to perform activities of daily living
  • Provides opportunity to develop social relationships/networks.

As you can see, the results of being physically active can have big payoffs. This highlights the importance of starting - or continuing - to be physically active and maintain a regular exercise routine throughout the year. However, many people start a regular exercise regimen for a New Year’s resolution, but the routine slowly falls apart over a couple months until it’s sporadic, or ends completely.

If you feel you’re at risk for falling short of your resolution, or maybe have experienced it in the past, let’s change this year. Whether you’re thinking about a resolution to be more physically active, have already started a new routine or have been participating regularly in a fitness program and just need a little encouragement, here are some tips to keep a routine for the whole year:

  • Figure out what barriers may keep you from exercising. This will help you discover what specific obstacles get in the way of a consistent exercise habit.
    • Click here this link for an assessment endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine to find ways to avoid barriers.
    • “I just don’t have time to exercise – my schedule is crazy-busy.” This is probably the number one reason people don’t participate in a regular exercise program.
      • We’re all given the same 24 hours in a day, so we have to make choices and priorities within that time frame. Given the benefits of regular physical activity listed above, there’s a pretty good argument regular exercise should be one of your priorities.
      • To avoid putting it off – SCHEDULE IT.
        • Use this form to find some exercise time. 
        • By scheduling your exercise, you’re making it a priority. Honor that priority just as you would any other priority, e.g. picking up your kids from school. Would you let your kids wait for you because you decided you “just didn’t have time” to pick them up? No. So treat exercise the same way – it’s one of your priorities, so don’t skip it. Seriously, try the assessment to see what other barriers you may encounter, e.g. lack of energy, skill or resources. If you can prepare ahead of time, you’ll more likely hurdle those obstacles and adhere to your resolution for the long run.
  • Elevate your exercise routine to “ritual” status

    Rituals are created by consistently choosing a given activity on a very regular basis. For example, just as you brush your teeth before work and let the dog out when you get home, you can make regular physical activity a ritual. It may take some time, but once you’ve accomplished it, you won’t think twice about skipping because it will be so engrained in your routi

  • Do activities you like.

    Don’t like sitting on those tiny cycling/spinning seats? Then don’t do it. Pick something you can tolerate - dare I say enjoy. If you would prefer to walk, do that instead. Participating in activities you enjoy will not only benefit you physically, but will benefit you mentally as well.

  • Get social support. This is super important. Find a family member, friend, spouse, co-worker or activity club to support your goals, ambitions, and resolutions.
  • “Exercise Buddies” can make a world of difference. They can be interested in achieving goals similar to yours, cheer you on, keep you accountable and support your resolution to keep physically active. Not to mention, you’ll have someone to commiserate with after your workout.
  • Find someone to support you with encouragement motivation when you feel like skipping your routine. Think of them as your motivational coach, and let them know you appreciate their help.
  • Find an exercise group.
    • The American Heart Association allows you to find, or create your own, walking club. Find out how here.
    • STL Track Club, Mercy FIT Club (Females in Training), or join a charity walking team. 

  • Believe in yourself.

    Set realistic short and long-term goals for yourself. When you meet a goal, reward yourself and engage in some positive self talk. For example, you walked two miles straight for the first time ever. Reward yourself by getting a pedicure or seeing the movie you’ve wanted to see. Follow up by giving yourself kudos and a pat on the back, and then set your sights on your next goal. Soon, you’ll be conquering the small goals and it will add up to one awesome victory.

Take home message: YOU CAN DO THIS! If you’re taking the time to read these tips, you’re already showing interest and desire to start, keep up and maintain a regular physical activity program. By believing in yourself, determination, social support and finding some activities you enjoy doing regularly, you’ll be on a path to overcome the barriers to exercise that have impeded progress in the past.

**IMPORTANT** Always talk to your doctor prior to participation in an exercise routine. In addition, completing an exercise self-assessment (like the one provided here by the American College of Sports Medicine) can help you and your doctor see if there are any risks associated with your participation in exercise.

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