As a dietitian, I have spent my entire adult life helping people to eat better. But when asked what is the single greatest thing I do to keep myself in shape, my answer has always been regular exercise. I can say with 100% conviction that exercise is an absolute necessary part of the weight management equation.
So, in 2013 you’ll be hearing much more from me about the importance of keeping our bodies moving…as much as we can and as often as we can.
What are the benefits of exercise?
The list is endless and each item on this list is interrelated, meaning one benefit leads to many others:
- weight management
- prevention of chronic disease, from heart disease to diabetes to cancer and on and on
- stress management (stress is one of the biggest contributors to chronic disease)
- greater muscle mass (muscle burns more calories than fat)
- improved metabolism
- increased bone density
- better sleep (research shows that those who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight)
- better balance, which prevents falls, particularly in the elderly
- removal of toxins from the body
- improved cardiovascular health
- better mood and reduced depression
- stronger immune system
The bottom line…every physiological (and many psychological) aspect of health and well-being is improved through regular exercise.
As a lifelong lover of exercise, here are the tips I have to share:
- When it comes to exercise, do what you love. If you are going to engage in physical activity on a regular basis for the rest of your life, you have to do find activities that are fun and you will look forward to doing.
- Find your motivator. Whether a high-energy music mix, workout partner or picture of your kids you want to be able to play with, find what it is that is going to get you moving, day in and day out.
- Set specific and realistic goals, and write them down. It’s not enough say you are going to exercise more, because what does exercising more really mean? Write down how many days a week you are going to get moving and what type of exercise you are going to do each day. Set short term goals that are realistic, rather than long term goals that may seem unobtainable. Reaching short-term goals gives you the confidence and motivation to set and work towards more advanced goals.
- Write down the obstacles that will prevent you from exercising, and brainstorm and write down solutions to overcoming them. If evening workouts tend to get pushed aside for late nights at the office, work out first thing in the morning. If coming home to the kids, prevents you from getting out the door, workout before coming home in the evening.
- Prioritize exercise by scheduling workouts into your calendar. You wouldn’t miss a work meeting on your calendar, would you? If you are serious about exercising, then you have to prioritize it. At the start of each week, put your workouts for the week into the calendar so you plan around them.
- Fit in bouts of movement whenever and wherever you can. Even if you get that hour workout in, sitting for more than six hours a day is detrimental to health. Every hour at work, get up and take a lap around the office. Stand and pace while on the phone. Take the dog for a walk instead of letting him out in the yard. Schedule walking meetings.
- Document your achievements by blogging or journaling. Going public is a great motivator to reaching your goals (why else do you think so many people are auditioning for The Biggest Loser?) Documenting your physical and emotional goals and feelings is a constant reminder of the good you are doing for yourself and helps you to evaluate next steps.
- Get out of your comfort zone. You have to get uncomfortable to see real change. Once you’ve become comfortable in a certain exercise routine, your body is operating more on momentum and you are getting less out of your routine. If you can’t afford a regular trainer, hire one every 6 weeks to give you a new workout.
- When possible, take your workout outside. Unfamiliar terrain burns more calories and is a great mental workout, too. Many find the outdoors to be calming and more enjoyable.
- Give your brain a vacation, but not your body. There’s nothing worse than working hard for eight months only to give it all up during vacation. A body at rest tends to stay at rest and vice versa, a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Vacation is the perfect time to try new physical activities that vary and reinvigorate you from your regular exercise routine. Train yourself to make physical activity a part of your vacation routine and you’ll continue to do it for years to come.
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