Improving your fitness does not mean you have to join a gym. Getting fit involves making changes to your lifestyle that increase your daily activity levels and calorie expenditure. This can be achieved through activities such as walking, cycling, active play with friends/loved ones/pets, dancing, fitness classes, gardening, housework or playing sports. However, our inspiration to engage in a fitness kick is often motivated by short term goals such as; to get in shape for a holiday, look good for a special occasion, prepare for a charitable race, or just to feel better about our bodies when we’ve not got our baggy winter s clothes to hide behind. However, our biggest mistake as to why we don’t sustain our good fitness habit’s after this event is that we can’t see beyond our short-term goal. There are several simple rules to follow if we wish to start and sustain a long-term fitness/physical activity regime.
- Engage in a physical activity that you enjoy. It sounds silly but sometimes people start exercise that they don’t like and then wonder why a few weeks/months down the road they’ve given up because they ‘don’t like exercise’, or it feels like an unenjoyable chore. To prevent this, choose a form of exercise that you enjoy or you’ve had previous positive experiences. It’s simply easier to commit to a long-term exercise regime when you enjoy what you’re doing.
- Allocate a realistic time commitment. The National recommendation for health improvement is to achieve 150 minutes of exercise/physical activity per week. This can be broken down into attainable exercise sessions eg: 5 x 30 minutes a day, 2 x 1hr -15 min sessions, 3 x 50 minute sessions. Therefore, when scheduling your exercise, make sure your commitment is realistic otherwise you are setting yourself up to fail and this will lead to a loss of motivation.
- Find something that’s local and can be easily fit into your lifestyle. If you prefer to exercise in a class, or with a group, choose on activity that can be easily accessed on route to or from work or can be fit into your daily regime without too much inconvenience. This becomes more manageable in creating positive behavioural change patterns and reduces the risk of creating excuses not to go.
- Have realistic fitness or weight loss goals. Don’t aim too big too quickly! If weight loss is your goal, don’t aim for more than 1lb a week. This is the equivalent to 3500 calories; That’s a lot of exercise! (about 7 x 1hr sessions if you’re not managing your food intake). Improving your fitness takes time but within just a few weeks you will start to look and feel better, and thou your weight may not change immediately or as fast as you’d like, your shape will which means your loosing body fat.
- Don’t weigh yourself more than once a week! This can have a negative effect on your perception of the effectiveness of exercise, which can cause you to lose motivation. Instead, try to use your clothes as a gauge to changes in your body shape, and when you do weigh yourself be consistent with the time, day and using the same scales.
- Make it a social engagement. When you engage in an exercise program with friends, and sustain this consistently for a minimum of 12 weeks you are more likely to create long term behaviour change. This is due to our perception of the social as well as physical benefits that we receive, which improves overall well-being. So what are you waiting for? Grab a buddy and start exercising and you can discover a love for exercise together.