Exercise: we all know we need it, but making it happen is something else altogether. These days, we all have busy lives. Work, study, child-rearing, or socializing – they don’t leave a lot of time for focusing on getting fit. What’s more, it’s a lot easier to talk about making an effort than to actually do it. You may have tried and tried again to get into good habits but never quite managed. Other people do, though. What’s their secret? What could make the difference for you?
What kind of exercise do you need?
The first thing that you need to be clear about is what kind of exercise you actually need. There are four elements that you should include in your workouts (though you don’t need to do them all on the same day):
- Aerobic exercise – aimed at strengthening your heart and lungs, speeding up your metabolism, and making you fitter; this includes things such as running, swimming, and cycling. You should aim to do it for at least two hours a week, but you can break this down into shorter sessions.
- Strength-building exercise – this helps to build up and maintain healthy muscles, and includes things such as weightlifting, squats, and press-ups. Aim to do at least three 20-minute sessions a week.
- Flexibility exercise – the focus of this is to keep your joints flexible. It includes all kinds of stretching exercises and things such as ballet and gymnastics. Always start slowly and gently to avoid strains.
- Balance exercise – this gets more important as you get older, and includes things such as standing on one leg or walking along a beam (or a line painted on the floor).
Exercise as part of life
The easiest way to make sure that you get the exercise that you need is to it fit as much of it as possible into your day-to-day life. If you walk all or part of the way to and from work each day, you may not need to do more aerobic exercise to maintain a decent standard of fitness (though it would still be good for you to do more). If you use an exercise bike or do on-the-spot aerobics routines, you can fit them in while watching your favorite TV shows. You could also go out dancing at the weekends or use pedals under your desk to exercise while you work or study. You could do leg stretches while washing the dishes or improve your fitness by engaging in active play with your kids.
If you’re going to get good results out of exercising, it helps to have the right gear. This could mean investing in some exercise equipment to use at home, or it could simply mean getting the right clothes to help you get the most out of your workout, such as compression shirts or good running shoes. This doesn’t need to be expensive. Simple equipment such as dumbbells or an exercise ball is a good place to start, and most clothing designed for exercising is very hardwearing, so you can gradually build up a collection of suitable items. You don’t need any special gear at all to do exercises such as sit-ups.
Making it fun
It’s no good trying to force yourself to work out every day if you’re just not having any fun when you do it. Different things appeal to different people, so you have to establish what can make it fun for you. It could be going to the gym or the sports field with a group of friends. It could be exercising to your favorite music. It could be the element of competition, whether you’re going up against other people or just trying to beat your own records. There are phone apps that can help turn exercise into a game and also help you keep track of how much you’ve done. Whatever works for you, you’ll find that it’s far easier to keep up exercise when you actually enjoy it than when you’re just trying to be responsible – and once you start doing it regularly, your body will get used to the buzz that it creates and start making you want it.
On those days when you wake up and don’t feel like making any kind of effort for anything, the thing that you need to remind yourself of is that the more exercise you do, the easier it will become. Getting in better shape also makes ordinary day-to-day tasks easier. This means that it’s a great option even if you’re lazy.