Moderate cardiovascular exercise performed for 30 minutes 3-4 times per week has a significant impact on numerous chronic diseases, mood, brain (cognitive) functioning, and depression (CDC, 1995). The health benefits increase as the amount of exercise time increases. Now is a good time to make a resolution for initiating and maintaining an exercise routine. Estimates indicate that the average individual has gained between 7-10 pounds this holiday season. Each year, the most frequently noted resolution is to lose weight after the holiday season. Here are a few tips to maintain this resolution past the third week of January 2016.
Make your exercise regimen personally relevant and meaningful
Your goals are most meaningful when they are selected and initiated by you. If it is anyone else’s agenda, it will be more difficult to initiate and to maintain. Listed below are a few good reasons to initiate exercise:
• Your heath care professional said it was necessary for heart health
• You want to fit into the pair or pants that have become snug during the holidays
• You were told it would enhance your mood or decrease your anxiety
At first thought, 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise appears to be a daunting task. Many people attempt too much all at once. Inevitably, this leads to muscle soreness, pain or injury. When we overdue exercise, it becomes a punishment. By taking smaller incremental steps in exercise time and intensity, the regimen has a greater capacity to be maintained. It is also more rewarding.
a. Person– Identify whether you are the type of person who benefits from working out with other people or individually. Keep in mind that neither manner of exercise is superior to the other. Some people need greater social facilitation by working out in a group, whereas other people prefer to work out individually. Which type of person are you?
b. Place– Identify whether you are better working out at a gym, at home, or outdoors. Some people benefit from having the structure of a gym, where classes and equipment are available. Other people prefer to exercise outdoors or in the privacy of their home. Where do you prefer to exercise?
c. Time-Pick a time of the day that works for you and stick to it the same way you would a business appointment. Cross it off on a calendar when you complete the workout. It will reinforce the exercise behavior and increase your commitment. What time works best for you?
Think of the exercise as play
The best workouts are ones when you get into a “zone” and forget you are exercising. Some of my best experiences with exercise have been when I went on a long run with friends in the woods. Before I knew it, we had run for 2 hours and finished our workout just as the sun came up. We were too busy having fun and talking to think of the technical aspects of exercise. Music is also a great facilitator for exercise. It can help to motivate you, help to keep your pace, and even help to distract you when needed.
During the initiation phase of your workout, keep your focus on being compliant with the exercise regimen. Your focus needs to be on the frequency of exercise. As stated earlier, you will build up your duration (length of time) that you exercise with greater frequency. Keep a log of the days you exercise, this will assist with your compliance. Once you build a solid base for one month, you will begin to see and feel the benefits. At that point, you can begin to keep track of other data measures that may be relevant to you.
As with all things in life, you need to continue to revise and adjust your exercise goals. Your goals may change as you see and feel the physical, mental and emotional benefits to exercise. It might motivate you to run a half marathon, or compete in a cycling race. If you are not successful in initiating an exercise regimen, reassess the factors that are impeding your progress. Some of the highest performing individuals view their progress as a chain of smaller goals that lead to larger envisioned goal. For now, keep things simple and small as you progress to better physical and emotional functioning.
John E. Macri, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in Ridgewood, NJ who specializes in clinical, sport and performance psychology. He is available for individual and group consultation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (201)-445-3306.