We all know how important exercising is for our health, but for some of us, maintaining a consistent fitness routine can be elusive. Watch the video for the easy ways that you can stay motivated.
Last year, 27.5 percent of residents in the United States were inactive. That’s 81 million people ages 6 and older who did not participate in any physical activity in 2016, according to the Physical Activity Council’s annual study that tracks sports, fitness and recreation participation in the U.S.
The inactivity rate has hovered at around 27 to 28 percent of the population since 2011. Not surprisingly, as physical activity declines, the rates of obesity and chronic illnesses increase dramatically.
According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise combats chronic disease, improves mood, controls weight, boosts energy and more. So why aren’t we more active? For busy people, it often comes down to finding the time.
“All of us have 24 hours in a day,” says Laura Fasano, vice president of healthy living at the YMCA of Greater Rochester in upstate New York. Fasano understands that it can be hard to fit exercise into a day already packed with work, home, community and family.
“People don’t want to be ‘selfish’ and spend time on themselves,” Fasano says. At the same time, she points to the flaw in this thinking.
“If we don’t focus on ourselves, then how can we take care of those we love? How can we be good role models or have the endurance to take care of our children or our parents? How can we be a good employee, and good contributor to society?” she asks.
The starting point to fitting in exercise is to approach it as something pleasurable, not as more work.
“We ask people who want to get active, ‘What do you like to do? What do you want to do? Can you do it for a few minutes a day?’ ” Fasano said.
Another approach is to start with something simple.
Dina Smock, a fitness trainer and lifestyle director at The Reserve in Brighton, New York, says, “The biggest thing I tell people is to walk, especially if they are sedentary. If people are completely sedentary, if they’re intimidated by going to a gym, I tell them they’ve got to walk.”
Everyone knows how, and most people can find the time to take a walk.
“Even if it’s just going around the block the first time — or pick a distance and say, ‘Today I’m just going to walk this far’ — then you can build from that. You can walk farther, you can walk faster, you can walk hills. It’s the easiest thing to do, to start moving,” Smock says.
As Fasano explains it, “Small process goals, that’s really where folks need to start. Over two to three weeks, what’s realistic to do? Is it exercising two times a week?”
YMCA members are encouraged to identify potential barriers and figure out in advance some strategies to overcome them. “A lot of the time, you develop the goals, then something is going to get in the way.”
So Fasano asks, “How are you going to overcome something getting in the way? What are you going to do?”
Mike Schuber is the program manager at the Rochester Regional Health wellness center, where RRH employees can work out during the workday. But he points out that working out at work does not require a fitness center in the building.
“There are exercises people can do right at their desks, so anyone can take a five-minute break to get the blood flowing and to reenergize.”
Those exercises could include chair dips, modified or regular pushups, planks, squats, lunges, or working with resistance bands. Smock adds, “If you work in a building that has stairs, walk the stairs.”
What about people who are caring for children or elderly parents at home, who can’t just leave for yoga class or even a quick run? Schuber gets it, and he has solutions.
“Everyone watches TV at home — a perfect thing we’ve done in my family is, when a commercial comes, we’ve got two to three minutes do something — sit-ups, lunges, anything!”
Schuber encourages families to make it fun. “No one likes a chore, so if it’s not fun, most people aren’t going to do it. But if you enjoy doing it, you’ll figure out a way to fit it in.”
Still think you can’t fit exercise into your day? There’s an app for that.
Actually many apps. One of Smock’s favorites? “The 7 Minute workout is terrific — there are seven exercises you do, 30 seconds for each exercise. You can do it for 30 minutes and it doesn’t require any equipment. The app prompts you, it tells you what to do, times you and measures your progress. It can’t get any simpler than that.”
For anyone not sure that simple changes will make a difference, consider places around the world where people are living active and healthy lives well into their 90s: “Blue Zones,” areas around the world that have lifestyles modeled after regions with the longest-living people.
How do they do it? Through diet, connection and moving naturally. Moving naturally means being active without thinking about it, and we can all do that.
In his book Blue Zones, which looked at those regions of longevity, researcher and author Dan Buettner recommends taking the stairs, using a snow shovel and push mower, and a rake instead of power tools, riding a bike instead of driving. At work, take a walking break instead of a snack break.
He recommends getting active with others for camaraderie and accountability. Gardening, he says, can relieve stress, provide frequent, low-intensity exercise, and provide fresh vegetables for a better diet. Perhaps the easiest and most important recommendation: walk. “It’s the one activity that all successful centenarians had in common.”
Fasano believes we can all make the time. “You may have to get up a little bit earlier. You may have to stay up a little bit later. At some point, you have to make the sacrifice — for yourself,” she emphasizes.
It can come down to looking at it a new way. We may need to work out a few minutes at a time instead of a few classes a week, or work on the lawn instead of the elliptical. Most of us can find the time and energy to take the stairs.
And we can lighten up. Why not challenge the kids to a battle of Just Dance on the Wii or Xbox? Leaving our egos on the couch can be fun, and healthy.
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