For many people, regular exercise can be more of a chore than a pleasure. Maybe you’re not making progress as quickly as you’d like. Or maybe, exercise just plain isn’t fun anymore; daily routines can become boring, which might tempt you to call it quits.
If you’re struggling to stay active, try these seven tips to keep your spirits high and your body moving:
1. Give Yourself a Reason to Work Out
If you’re not sure why you want to exercise, take a step back and set a few attainable and meaningful goals. Running a marathon may not be practical right away, but it’s not off the table, regardless of your age. Start by trying to run a few miles three times a week, and then slowly increase the distance.
Your goal doesn’t have to be a change in your physical appearances, although that may be part of it. It might be something specific, like participating in a charity run. Or it might be a bit vaguer. Perhaps you want the energy and strength to run around with grandkids, keep up with a hectic work schedule or travel the world. Whatever your goal, make sure that it makes sense for you.
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2. Remember, There Are Multiple Benefits
Once you reach a goal, your motivation may begin to wane. In addition to continuing to set new goals and pushing yourself to the next level, consider the long-term benefits of regular exercise.
Losing weight and increasing your energy levels are both great reasons to exercise, but did you know that exercise can also help prevent or delay the onset of serious illnesses?
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, regular exercise may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises to build and maintain bone density, and the Mayo Clinic notes that regular exercise can help you manage chronic illnesses such as arthritis, asthma, back pain and diabetes.
3. Create a Schedule
You’re setting yourself up for failure if you think you’ll just fit in a quick workout when it’s convenient. Schedule workout times and plan the day’s activities in advance; that way, you’ll be more inclined to show up and do it.
Remember to be realistic when creating your schedule. If you’re not a morning person, it will be difficult for you to stick to a daily 5 a.m. run. However, you might be the perfect candidate for a quick lunchtime workout or a regular evening routine.
4. Remove Potential Barriers
Even with a plan in place, things can go wrong. You may go to bed looking forward to heading straight to the gym first thing in the morning, only to hit the snooze button and roll over when the alarm rings.
Remove potential barriers and make it easy to follow through by prepping for your work out way ahead of time. If you’re planning for an early workout, pack a gym bag and a change of clothes the evening before. If you’re headed out for a morning walk or run, prepare breakfast and the day’s outfit for your return. You could also leave a packed bag in the car to make it easy to head to the gym during the day or after work.
5. Change Things Up
Experimenting with new activities or sports is one way to keep things interesting—and you could discover a new passion along the way. If your joints tend to ache, you might respond better to low-impact activities such as swimming, Pilates, yoga or Tai Chi. At the gym, an elliptical trainer can be gentler on the knees than a treadmill, and a recumbent bike can reduce stress on the lower back.
If you love an activity but still find yourself putting it off, try changing up your surroundings. Head out on a new walking or running path, listen to a new album or audiobook or bring a phone or tablet to the gym to watch a show while on the machines.
6. Find or Create a Community
Some people prefer working out on their own, but exercise can be a fun way to connect with those around you. Go on bike rides with your family, start a regular pick-up game with your friends at a local park or join a sports league with your coworkers. Joining a team or finding a workout partner can also help you remain accountable. You might find it harder to stay in bed or on the couch if you know someone is waiting for you.
If you’re looking for an accountability partner, that person doesn’t necessarily need to work out alongside you. The two of you simply need to report to each other when you do (and don’t) work out. And you could up the ante by putting money on the line. Place a friendly wager on how many times you’ll exercise each week. At the end of the week, whoever breaks their commitment to exercise more often can donate $5 (or however much you two decide on) to a charity of the other person’s choosing.
7. Make It Affordable
Exercise classes and gym memberships can be expensive, and when money is tight, you might be tempted to use the cost as an excuse and put off exercise. The truth is, there are many inexpensive and even free options for getting active.
You can try bodyweight exercises, which you can do at home. Free guides or examples of bodyweight exercises can be found in fitness magazines or on YouTube. If you’re looking for more structure, try one of the many inexpensive or free smartphone and tablet apps with workout routines and explanatory videos. The New York Times’ two free seven-minute workout apps, for example, have animated demonstrations, audio cues and a built-in timer.
If you prefer to work out at the gym or enjoy group classes, look into the Healthways SilverSneakers program. Membership is complimentary with some Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement Health plans, and you’ll get you access to fitness equipment and classes at more than 13,000 locations.
If you don’t qualify for SilverSneakers, the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) has a database of fitness and recreation centers that serve the 50-plus community. The YMCA also has a Y Active Adults (YAA) program. YMCA membership is affordable for most and they offer financial assistance for low-income members.
No matter what, it’s important that you make exercise a priority in your life.
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