Keep these concepts in mind to help you succeed at an ongoing habit of movement.
There are lots of ways to celebrate American Heart Month in February— focusing on showing yourself some love by taking steps toward greater heart health.
A key element of heart health is regular physical activity. Jennifer Menk, senior director for health and wellbeing for YMCA of the North says, “Physical activity is part of overall wellbeing. Body movement makes us strong as a whole person as it can reduce negative things like pain and the risk of disease and elevate positive things like better sleep and quality of life.”
Although guidelines for recommended amounts of physical activity are clear and straightforward, they can sometimes feel challenging due to lack of time, energy, skill, motivation and more. If this is—or has been you—you’re not alone!
To help beat some common barriers to achieving regular physical activity, keep these ideas from Jennifer in mind:
If you already know there’s a physical activity you like to do—you’re in luck. Keep up with dancing, running, climbing, snowshoeing, or whatever you enjoy that gets your body moving. When you enjoy doing something, you’re more likely to stick with it.
To find a physical activity you might enjoy, first consider your motivations and see if they spark an idea of what you might like to try. For example, to move with less pain you might try an activity like yoga, or if you know you enjoy competing you might pick up playing pickleball.
While consistency is good to get into a routine, Jennifer says that it’s important to have a mix of physical activity that includes cardio, strength and flexibility. Additionally, once you get into a routine, it’s important to keep changing things up—varied resistance, more time, bursts of higher intensity, etc. If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, consider trying something new with a Group Exercise class.
For some people, regular physical activity is attained when there is an element of accountability to others that’s built in. Accountability could come from working with a Personal Trainer, or from planning to exercise with a family member, colleague or friend. “When you share your experiences with others, you can push yourself harder, have more fun, and find it easier to add variety,” says Jennifer.
Do yourself a favor in how you frame up your physical activity. For example, does it help you to think of “exercise” or “movement”? If “working out” feels or sounds like a chore, think of it as improving your health and wellbeing. Are you choosing activities that work with or against your body? It’s important to be kind to yourself and be realistic when working toward building a regular routine.
Integrating physical activity into your day in short bursts might not yield the same benefits as a dedicated, longer session of activity—but it’s still helpful! For example, instead of heading to the coffee pot for an afternoon pick-me-up, try swapping with a few workday exercises, or doing a flight or two of stairs.
Lastly, Jennifer stresses that any physical activity is a plus. Something is better than nothing. It’s important to recognize and celebrate what you do achieve—not what you don’t. This is essential to building a regular practice of physical activity.