This statement rings true for many of us. Whether we hate sweating, hate the gym, hate the time commitment, hate the “pain” or hate the breathlessness, it’s common to find reasons not to be active. We go about our lives feeling constantly overwhelmed; the thought of adding yet another anxiety-provoking aspect to the routine seems utterly impossible. But, when we weigh the benefits against the consequences, are we able to become motivated?

Motivation can hit us for a variety of reasons…whether we’re motivated by health, appearance, energy or anything else, the important thing to realize is that motivation must ultimately come from within. It can be triggered by an outside source, but the tools to achieve a goal are all buried within us; getting them to the surface can sometimes be a difficult process.

When we think of “exercise,” we often picture ourselves in a gym setting, surrounded by “hard-bodies,” looking into a sea of equipment and forcing ourselves to do something utterly un-enjoyable. Many of us believe this is the only way to “get exercise” and we forget about the hundreds of other everyday activities that can burn calories and build muscle.

Let’s consider some benefits of becoming more active…
1) Your energy will improve significantly.
2) Your mood will be lifted. Any physical activity releases endorphins which naturally make us feel better.
3) You’ll burn calories. This will help improve your body composition (i.e. burning fat and building muscle).
4) You’ll make your heart more efficient. Pumping blood more easily means more oxygen getting to our muscles & organs – they’ll work more effectively. A more efficient body leads to a higher metabolism which leads to a healthier body that can DO more!
5) Your balance, posture and everyday motor skills will improve. You’ll have less difficulty doing physical things that may have seemed difficult before.

With these things in mind, it makes sense that physical activity can ultimately make us feel better. But, even so, it can be intimidating to imagine starting any kind of a routine; it’s important to simplify and focus on one step at a time.

“What kind of physical activity suits me and my needs?” ? You may not enjoy the feeling of forcing yourself to exercise, so it’s important to NOT HATE what you’re doing!! There are many ways to get active:

– walking
– jogging
– snow-shoeing
– cross-country skiing
– power-shopping
– swimming
– crunches in front of the TV
– shoveling
– cleaning the bathroom
– dancing
– chopping wood
– parking further away
– aquafit
– mini squats
– skating
– biking
– sledding & walking up the hill
– downhill skiing
– climbing stairs
– lifting easy weights
– doing some push-ups
– jumping jacks
– etc.

With so many options, it shouldn’t be too hard to identify a few things you might enjoy! Getting active doesn’t have to be a huge, daunting task. Break it up into pieces and you might not even notice! During your break at work, could you walk up and down a few flights of stairs? How hard would it be to think about walking faster between stores during your next shopping trip? Next time you’re standing in line for a coffee, could you stand up on your toes 20 times? It’s really not as difficult as you might think to squeeze in a few minutes of activity throughout the day. As you get used to small bursts of movement, you’ll be more inclined to do longer & more intense sessions as you progress.

Let’s think about perceived pain…how “painful” (physically & psychologically) do you imagine exercise to be on a scale of 1 to 10? If you compare this to eating healthy, how “painful” do you imagine eating healthier would be on a scale of 1 to 10? Many of us find one aspect more difficult than the other. In many cases, it’s the exercise portion of being healthy that causes us more “pain” or distress.

So, take it one step at a time! Start very small so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Write down your long-term goal…do you want to tone up your muscles? Do you simply want more energy? Do you want to improve your cardiovascular health? Once you’ve figured out where you want to get to, break down the specifics of HOW you’re going to get there. For example:
1) I’m going to consciously think about ways to add small bursts of activity to my routine this week.
2) Next week, I’m going to go for two 20-minute walks at lunch hour on top of that.
3) In 3 weeks, I’ll be up to three 20-minute walks.
4) In 4 weeks I’ll be walking at a faster pace and maybe even for a longer duration.

Chunk it down! Find someone who enjoys similar activities and make them your “exercise buddy!” Try a beginner yoga or Aquafit class! You CAN become more athletic without all the angst. Take it one day and one activity at a time. Eventually, physical activity will become an important part of your routine that you’ll actually start looking forward to.

You can do it! Keep trying; don’t ever lose sight of your goal. Start with 5-minute “bursts” and work your way up!

Dr. Doug