It is a well-known fact that exercise and activity improve quality of life and longevity. After years of working on this particular habit personally and helping others do the same, I’ve learned that knowing doesn’t equal doing. We KNOW exercise is good for us, but why aren’t we doing it? Our brains have distinct patterns that are revealed in our habits. New habits are challenging to create, and as the saying goes, old habits die hard.
Do you remember exactly when you learned to brush your teeth? Do you even have to think about putting your seatbelt on? What else feels automatic in your life? Maybe making the morning coffee or the commute to the office? What if we could create that type of automation with exercise and motion? What if your habit of motion becomes so automatic that if you are ever prevented from doing it, you will just won’t feel right? Here are a few practical recommendations about how you can automate your healthy habit of motion.
Challenge Your Definition of Exercise
First, I suggest challenging your definition of exercise. And what a healthy habit of motion can look like.
Are you thinking that exercise is running a mile like we were taught in PE?
Or perhaps you think of your past self that hit the gym everyday after work?
Are you a former athlete that thinks that walking the dog is not considered exercise?
How do you define exercise and motion?
What if you changed your definition to include things like, playing with your kids at the park? Doing chores and yard work?
Or even switching sitting activities to standing? For example, create a standing desk for computer time. HOW you define motion is almost as important as WHAT your activity is. Any extra motion you incorporate is beneficial to your health and well-being. Challenge yourself to get in more motion even if it doesn’t seem like exercise. Adding motion to your life doesn’t mean strapping on the running shoes and sweating at the gym.
Do Something EVERY SINGLE DAY
Just like brushing our teeth, putting on our seatbelt, creating extra activity every day allows the habit to become solidified in our brain as a permanent pathway.
“I don’t have time to exercise every day.” This is the number one reason that people say they can’t exercise. Here’s your next challenge – evaluate how you are spending your time. Work, sleep, family time, household commitments, all add up to a large time commitment. How much time is left over? To incorporate more activity rather than formal exercise, means that there’s no time requirement. You also are not looking for a 30 minute block of time to create this new habit of motion, even 1-5 minutes of activity helps. One minute of stretching at every red light adds up. Five minutes of walking during a quick phone call gets the heart beating and fluids flowing through the joints.
Bottom line = new habits form if you do them EVERY DAY.
Pairing Activities & Creating a Healthy Behavior Chain
Most behavior change is challenging, but here is an EASY win when trying to incorporate more motion and activity. Pair desirable activities in your life with motion. For example, you are winding down and really want to catch up on your favorite show. Now, add in some stretching or light exercise while watching it! Give yourself the treat of watching your show ONLY if you are also adding in motion. Our behaviors are linked to one another. The flip side of this healthy behavior is when we are watching TV, we are mindlessly snacking. The more healthy habits you can link together, the more likely you’ll develop a permanent habit. Here’s one more silly but effective behavior link – while brushing your teeth, add in walking around, or other mild physical activity. If you do this EVERY time you brush your teeth, you’ve just linked two healthy behaviors. EASY PEASY.
Monitor Your Activity
There are so many wonderful fitness apps and ways to monitor your steps and activity. Reach for the goals of 10,000 steps or more per day. You may even find it rewarding to complete small challenges within the fitness apps. Developing an objective way to monitor your activity reduces negative self-talk as well. When you can actually see a chart or completed activity on the app, it’s an extra kudos to getting in more motion.
Create a Support System
Exercise is way more fun with friends. Who do you know that is looking for more motion and activity? Being a support for someone else while they are developing a new habit can be very rewarding for you as well. We help ourselves when we help others. Invite your family and friends to join you in these new active habits. Imagine if you taught your kids to stretch while brushing their teeth, they are likely to participate in that habit for life! Creating a support system helps to make activity more automatic.
Do Something You Love
When you are ready to incorporate more structured exercise, make sure it is something you enjoy. This may sound simple, but many people force themselves to exercise, and all the while they are cursing it. Find an activity that you enjoy and can slowly progress with. If you don’t like walking, try biking. If you’re not crazy about the gym, exercise outside. It is much easier to create an automatic habit when you enjoy what you are doing.
10 Quick and Easy Ways to Get More Motion in Your Life
- Dance Party – either with the kids or alone.
- Catch up on phone calls while walking.
- Set a timer to get up and move every 15 minutes during work.
- Take the stairs (if you are not injured or have a disability).
- Park father away when shopping.
- Carry a basket instead of pushing the cart at the grocery store.
- Do a wall sit while waiting for your coffee to brew.
- Neck rolls and stretches at every stop light while commuting.
- Engage your core when sitting, standing, and walking.
- Manually perform household chores & yard work.
We Don’t Sweat, We Sparkle
As women, we have so much on our plate. Our time IS limited, as well as our energy. We all have excuses and real-life happenings that get in our way of creating the habits we desire. Developing a healthy habit of motion in your life is simple, but not easy. Small, measurable steps to incorporating more activity will bring you small triumphs, and overall huge wins in the bigger picture. Taking the steps to automate your activity and healthy motion can be liberating. You deserve to feel your best!