With a challenging schedule and pressure on your time, how do you still fit in exercise? We know that exercise is good for us and that we should do it more often; regular exercise helps with managing stress, it's a great mood booster and recent research confirms that it keeps your brain younger by as much as 10 years! So why do so many of us struggle to make exercise a habit?
If you are a big-goal exercise person – training for the Comrades, Iron Man or any other big-goal event – please feel free to move on. If you are, however, like me - which is busy, in demand, hectic, not training for a big event - you may need a few other strategies to get your regular dose of exercise.
Here’s five strategies that you can apply to get your body off the couch:
- Find an activity that you enjoy
Find a sport that you enjoy. It seems so obvious, but I do believe it is important that you like what you are doing. I dislike running with the same degree of intensity that I despise certain vegetables, so I don’t run. I do, however, love to play squash and I could play all day if I had the time. If you don’t know what you like, now is the time to go to try different things. Do a group class at the gym, go dancing or take your dogs for a walk - you get the idea.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people
Being part of a group can drive your motivation. As a member of a group you are often more secure, and they can share in your goals and care about your progress. They don’t have to be friends, yet they can become friends. My husband is part of a cycling group and they support and fuel each other during the tough rides. They also keep each other accountable to go cycling every weekend. You can even have an accountability partner. I have a regular gym appointment with a work colleague on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7am. We don’t always make it, but it’s not so easy to make excuses if someone is waiting for you.
- Location, location, location:
It is hard to stick to an exercise routine if the place you need to get to is far. The easier it is to get to, the more likely you are able to adhere to your plan. I enjoy certain group classes at my local gym, but to navigate the afternoon traffic to get there is just not an option for me - so I don’t go. The squash club, however, is close - and it is easy to get there. Have a look around your home or your place of work. What is available? What clubs or groups can you join that are easy to get to?
- Understand your personal rhythms
Understanding yourself and your rhythms is important to make regular exercise easier. If you are not a morning person, don’t try and force yourself to get up at 4.30 am to go to the gym. You will find it very difficult to adhere to, especially in the cold, dark winter mornings. So rather plan your exercise for later in the day: lunchtime, after work, later at night. Work with your natural rhythms.
- Put it in your diary
Your diary shows your priorities, so if you want to exercise more regularly, schedule it and put in your diary. This is often where the challenge is: How do you find the time if there is no time available? My husband’s work schedule makes it very difficult for him to find time during the day to exercise. He also isn’t a morning person, so early morning exercise is not an option. His typical weekly exercise schedule looks like this: a game of squash on a Monday evening, and a long cycle on a Saturday and Sunday with the group. And it’s in the diary.
Those are five strategies that you can apply in your aim to exercise more regularly. Find something you love to do, do it with others, make it easy to get to and schedule it in your diary.