Dear Timaree: I am super busy, but don’t get time to “exercise” very often. Any words of advice?
Neglecting your body’s need to get physical activity everyday is like ignoring your vehicle’s maintenance schedule. You would never expect any car to run well long term without changing the oil, filters and belts, but only 15% of our population exercises on a consistent basis. While most of us have let a minor car issue go too long and turn into a very expensive ordeal, we are also surrounded by people suffering painful, expensive consequences of preventable chronic diseases.
The last time you saw your doctor, you may recall hearing something akin to, “your weight/blood pressure/blood sugar has been creeping up”, and/or “you should really get started (or back to) exercising”. You may think that exercise is negotiable, because you can skip a day and feel “ok”, but don’t be fooled. If you have a small leak in a tire, you could ignore it, but you know that it won’t go away. One morning you might be greeted by a flat tire in your driveway, causing you to miss a very important meeting at work, or it could blow out when you are driving 70 mph down I-5 and cause a fatal accident. Without regular maintenance, your vehicle won’t last and worse case, your life could be put in jeopardy. Your body is meant to move, and without regular exercise, it is only a matter of time before chronic diseases set in and undermine your quality of life. With 2 in 3 Americans overweight or obese, 1 in 3 with high blood pressure and 26 million with diabetes, we are on a collision course that will leave us in pain and broke (134% increase in health care premiums since 2002)!
5 Smart Strategies for Becoming a Consistent Exerciser:
#5: Make it easy: Start out at a low intensity – forget “no pain, no gain”. After discussing your exercise plans with your doctor, be sure not to overdo it right away and risk burnout. If it has been a while since you were active, don’t worry about “what you used to be able to do”, just get going and make it a habit again before you the ramp up the intensity. Also, make it easy to follow through by engineering your environment for success. Even if you aren’t “sure” if you want to work out the next morning, go ahead and set your alarm clock (on other side of room) and have clothes and shoes set out the night before. The fewer decisions you need to make right before you go, the better!
#4: Do it everyday: Plan ahead to include at least 30 minutes of intentional exercise everyday, even if you have to break it up into two sessions. If your schedule gets completely out of whack, and you miss a workout or two, you’ll still have exercised 5-6 times that week. If you plan for three days a week, you might only end up exercising for one or two days!
#3: Slot it: Pick a time slot that is least likely to conflict with the “rest of your life.” Even if you aren’t a “morning person”, give an early workout a try if your evenings tend to get booked up. If you do have time at night, but find yourself parked on the couch after dinner because you are too tired, change your routine so that you don’t sit down in the first place! “Resting” on the couch has never been an effective way to ramp up your energy. In fact, it usually leads to feeling more tired, getting sucked into watching TV for hours and meandering into the kitchen for some mindless eating!
#2: Buddy up: Have an exercise buddy (or two or three!) – more is better, so that you’ll always have a partner to meet when schedules get crazy. Conversation makes the time fly by, the personal connections enrich your life and we all benefit from the added level of accountability!
#1 STRATEGY: “Don’t Ask!” That is, don’t ask yourself if you feel like working out. Don’t try to rationalize putting it off until later. Just get ready and go! Don’t waste time contemplating or make it “a big deal”, just go through the motions to get yourself moving and before you know it, you’ll be done and feeling great!
If you think that regular exercise is inconvenient, just ask someone with diabetes, heart disease, or hypertension how convenient (and expensive) it is to be sick! You may know people who seem to be waiting to be diagnosed with a chronic disease before making changes to exercise and eating habits. You don’t have time to wait. So, when are you going to do your intentional exercise today?
Timaree Hagenburger, is a registered dietitian and certified health fitness specialist with a master’s degree in public health. She is a nutrition professor at Cosumnes River College, does corporate wellness work, as well as professional speaking engagements and teaches hands-on cooking/nutrition classes.
My article was published in the Lodi News Sentinel on January 4, 2012.