Three Keys for Making Exercise Your Friend
So, you’re ready to embrace exercise as your new best friend. But can you keep the friendship going?
All those perks—disease prevention, weight control, heart and lung protection, energy and more—won’t last if you don’t maintain the friendship. Dr. Mark Stengler, author of The Natural Physician’s Healing Therapies, warns, “If you abruptly stop exercising, within a couple of weeks you lose most of the benefits that you gained.” Although your efforts can yield positive effects right away, long-term benefits depend on maintaining regular exercise throughout your life.
If such a commitment sounds daunting—even impossible—don’t worry. Incorporating physical activity into your daily life is easier than you might think. Let’s look at three keys to keeping your new friend around forever.
Key #1: Keep It Real.
If you don’t like your chosen physical activity in the first place, you’ll drop it. The relationship will resemble a superficial friendship that lasts only a little while and then fades away. So pick activities you enjoy. Why force yourself to go jogging when you despise the mere thought of it? Walk. Bike. Dance. Hike. Jump rope. Take karate lessons. Choose whatever motivates you.
Any activity counts as real exercise as long as you’re reaching a moderate level of intensity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a moderate level means your heart rate is up, you’re breaking a sweat and you’re breathing a little harder. If you’re just starting out, don’t overdo it. Let your body tell you when you’ve had enough for the moment. You can gradually increase your time and intensity level.
Key #2: Keep It Interesting.
Don’t get bored! Vary the types of exercise you choose, and you’ll more likely stick with your exercise plan. Jog three days a week and swim for two, for example. Or try something completely different occasionally, like in-line skating or a volleyball game with friends. A change of scenery can prevent boredom, as well. A different walking route, for example, might spice up your routine.
In a sense, your body can get bored, too. When you exercise the same way every day, your muscles get used to the repetitive motion and that particular exercise loses some effectiveness. The American Council on Exercise suggests incorporating changes into your routine every few weeks. Swap push-ups for crunches, for instance, increase your walking speed or replace jogging with sprints. Such small, occasional changes help prevent injuries, as well as work different muscle groups, resulting in a more balanced body structure.
Resistance training can also keep things interesting. Working with weights, resistance bands or your own body weight, increases muscle strength, muscle mass and bone density, Dr. Stengler explains. He suggests combining this kind of exercise with your aerobics to achieve a whole-body workout. And don’t forget stretching exercises, which help prevent sore muscles and improve flexibility.
Key #3: Keep It Convenient.
What comes to mind when you hear the word “exercise”? Jogging around the track before daylight? Sweating on the treadmill? Working out for hours? If you think of exercise as nothing but a big hassle, you’ll never make it your friend.
Banish these images from your mind immediately! Not only can exercise be fun and interesting, but it can also be convenient.
Don’t want to go anywhere? Stay home and run laps around the house. Shoot some hoops in the driveway. Practice long jumps in the back yard.
Maybe you hate the summer heat or go numb in the winter cold. Good news: You don’t even have to go outside. When the weather doesn’t suit you, jumping jacks in the basement or dancing to your favorite music in the living room will suffice.
Don't have equipment? Not a problem. Exercises like lunges or push-ups will provide proper resistance training through use of your own body weight. Climb the stairs for a great aerobic activity. Get an upper body workout while you vacuum the floors with gusto.
Short on time? No worries. Harvard Medical School reports that you can fulfill your total exercise time in small increments throughout the day. Find ways to incorporate physical activity into your routine and you’ll get your quota before you know it. Walk the first ten minutes of your lunch break, for example. Pace the floor as you study for a test. Stretch as you watch your favorite TV show. Take the stairs two at a time. Don’t just saunter across campus; sprint your way to class!
You Can Do It!
If your exercise doesn’t go exactly as planned at first, don’t give up. Remember: Any good friendship requires commitment. Make sure you keep it real, keep it interesting and keep it convenient, and you’ll keep your new friend for life!
Written by Beth Prassel-Sieg
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