We all know that activity is critical to our health. So why is it so hard to incorporate it into our daily life? I hear from women all the time in my practice, “Annie, it’s so hard to fit activity in!” and “Annie, I’ve worked all day, the last thing I feel like doing is working out!”
I would like to support women to make activity a part of their every day lives without it being a Herculean effort. Trust me, it can be done and it’s very likely you’re overthinking it and making it way harder than it needs to be!
The reason I am so passionate about this is because activity is the greatest “drug.” It is incredible for disease prevention, mainly cardiovascular disease which is the number one killer of women. It’s also great for mental health as it relieves stress by releasing all the feel-good hormones.
Ultimately, the human body was meant to move! It is one of the greatest myths out there that as we age, our bodies just start to hurt and there’s nothing we can do about it. That couldn’t be farther from the truth! It’s not aging that’s causing the pain and discomfort in our bodies, it’s years of lack of movement!
Motivation is often used as the scapegoat for why we don’t incorporate daily activity into our lives. People think they just don’t have the desire to do it. Actually, it’s not motivation at all, it’s a lack of CLARITY and lack of PLANNING that can be blamed for our sedentary lifestyle.
When you have clarity, you are very clear on the outcomes that you get from activity and what it does for you. For instance, I suffer from anxiety, so I need to take care of myself so anxiety doesn’t run my life and therefore I must move my body to care of myself and as a release of tension and stress.
Planning is just making sure it’s scheduled into your day, whenever the time is that works best for you. It varies for everyone, but we all know that if we don’t schedule it, it doesn’t happen. So be sure to plan activity into your day or the day will quickly get away from you.
Getting your clarity and making a plan is what will get you on the path to regular daily activity. You can’t rely on motivation because it is a flimsy thing that comes and goes. It’s impossible to rely on it day in and day out because the slightest thing can take it away. But when you have clarity about why you need to exercise, despite a lack of motivation, and you’ve set aside time in your day for it, you’re much more likely to do it and stick to it.
So, how can you get started? Very small things matter more than big, grand plans. Here are my top three tips to get you moving daily:
1. Walk more!
That’s it, just walk more; everywhere, every day. It works! If you’ve been on the couch, figuratively or not, you can start with that. Just get up; go do errands that you would normally drive to and walk instead, and carry more bags that will force your body to work harder. Don’t dismiss these things, they seem small but they really work.
In longevity reports for people that live in what are known as the “blue zones” (regions of the world where Dan Buettner claims people live much longer than average), one thing that all these societies have in common is they do a lot of walking and moving. They often live in mountainous regions and are thus walking up and down these mountains every day. They also garden, carry bags, don’t take cars, etc. They’re not running marathons in these societies, they’re just engaged physically every day of their lives and that is enough to keep them healthy and active and living well into old age.
2. Start with 15 minutes.
Every one of us has 15 minutes in their day. Even with children, taking care of aging parents, long commutes and busy days, we can find 15 minutes for activity.
And consistency beats perfection every time. Fifteen minutes of exercise while watching a TV show is better than nothing. Do this 15 minutes every day and you’ll gain confidence and you’ll wake up your body. After that, you’ll be able to look at extending to 20 minutes and beyond.
If you don’t know what to do, go online! There are tons of resources and workouts that are free, such as yoga, dance, hip-hop, HIIT, exercises with and without weights, etc. There is truly something for everyone, all you need is a yoga mat and your scheduled time, whenever that is. Put your 15 minutes in the calendar every day and make it happen.
3. Make it a combo!
Most women love socializing and spending time with friends so why not combine the two and find an activity you can do with a friend?! Dance, water aerobics, bowling; pick anything that sounds like fun and that can be enjoyed together. Joining a club or class gives you accountability, allows for socialization and gives you the benefit of exercise. A triple win!
Be sure to explore a variety of activities. You don’t have to commit for a long period of time, just try different things and see what you like. I can share from personal experience that I started taking yoga classes because I had injuries from running but I really wasn’t into yoga and didn’t think I would like it because I’m so inflexible. Well, after a few classes I did really start to enjoy it and while I got the benefit of the stretching, the other aspects like the slowing down, deep breathing and correcting my posture actually ended up being the parts that I craved! So be open-minded to the possibilities.
Now is the time to get started! Start small, get up and do something, anything! Consistency beats perfection every time. Pick something you can do for 15 minutes every day and then explore what activities could be a good fit for you and watch how things start to change not just in your body, but also your mind and your overall happiness and sense of wellbeing.