7 Keys to Gaining All the Health Benefits From Exercise

The motivation to exercise- sometimes it can be hard to find, can’t it. You may have followed your New Year’s resolutions for a few weeks or a couple of months, but the newness has worn off and you find yourself in the same place you were before. You make excuses instead of finding the time to exercise consistently. Regardless of what season it is when you read this article, there is never a bad time to begin the process of getting more fit and the health benefits that come along with that. What better time to get your body in shape than right now!

As we have discussed on many occasions in other articles, putting an exercise program into your lifestyle is an essential component to being optimally healthy. Not only does it help you look and feel your best, but your organs and all of the systems in the body work better as well. Exercise has even been proven to create the internal environment that slows the aging process! I don’t know of anyone at any age reading this article that would not be interested in slowing the aging process to a crawl. Am I right?

The following is a simple, seven step program to help you get back in gear and begin exercising again. These are the keys to helping you get the most out of your own exercise program. Your part is to start!

1. Take inventory. The first step in the process is to figure out where you are now and then decide where you want and need to be in the future. Remember, it’s the choices and decisions that you make today that will determine where you are in your life tomorrow! Don’t rely solely on your own perceptions- ask a trusted friend or loved one for their opinion of what would help make you your best. Do you need to lose weight, lower your body fat percentage, gain some muscle, build strength or just be more fit overall? Make sure that they are honest with you since you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. This will help you determine what kind of a exercise program you would most benefit from implementing. If necessary, get a check up from your doctor, especially if you have been inactive for awhile. They can accurately assess your level of fitness along with documenting your starting blood pressure, body fat percentage, height and weight measurements, etc. This is important to protect yourself from overdoing when you start your program and it provides a basis for tracking and monitoring your progress during your exercise program.

2. Set specific and realistic goals for yourself. Decide if you are more interested in losing weight, reducing body fat, building muscle and strength, or gaining endurance and stamina. If you have a strong desire to succeed, you will have the most success by setting both long-term and short-term goals by which to monitor your progress as you go. Achievable goals will not only help you accomplish the desired end results but will keep you motivated in the process. If goals are too lofty, you may get discouraged and quit all together. An example would be to improve your eating habits and add daily exercise with a goal of losing 1-2 pounds per week. At the end of 10 weeks, that could add up to almost 20 pounds! That would be well worth accomplishing!

3. Begin gradually. No matter how excited you are, remember to begin slowly and make consistency your initial aim. Do not expect to pick up where you left off the last time you were exercising consistently 1- years ago! Make the first several exercise sessions a test to see where you are currently, and use this information to determine how you feel and how much your body can handle at one time. To avoid injury, include some form of stretching and flexibility training in your exercise program. Stretch the larger muscles of the body first (such as the legs and the lower back). Be careful not to bounce when stretching- carefully hold the stretch for 15-20 seconds and then relax/release that stretch. You will be surprised how quickly your body will adapt to the changes you are asking it to make!

4. Keep a journal. You must keep some kind of written record of your workouts whether you are walking or lifting weights. This will help you note your progress and provide a record for the planning of your next workout. Try to gradually add to what you accomplished on the workouts before the current days session. When you log the time and energy invested in the project, it makes it harder to quit, and the results help sustain your motivation. It is highly beneficial to be able to look back on where you started and remind yourself of how much progress you have made during the early weeks of your program. Motivation or the lack thereof is the main reason that people drop out after a short period of time and stop exercising all together. Progress, even in small increments, helps to keep you on target and on track to reach your goals.

5. Find a workout partner. Hold each other accountable to the goals that you set for yourselves. This makes it much easier to stay motivated and you have less excuse to “bail out” of a workout when someone else is depending on your support for their progress. Nothing is more effective than finding someone with similar goals and then supporting each other toward the accomplishment of them. Don’t get caught up in trying to be better than your partner, but use their current level of fitness to help drive you to catch up. If you are already ahead of where they are in their level of health, keep them encouraged and support them in the way that they tell you they need it. Don’t try to decide for someone else how quickly they should be progressing, and don’t let them tell you where you should be and what you should be doing. Just support each other in the accomplishing of the predetermined goals that you have each set for yourselves.

6. Learn to be flexible. Figure out what barriers or obstacles that might interfere with your consistency, then set a plan in advance of what you will do when they come up. Have a game plan for when you travel, when it rains, when your partner cannot train with you, or when you are sore from the last session. By pre-determining what course of action you will take when the obstacles surface, you will have no excuse to give up your exercise for the day. The last thing you need is another excuse NOT to stick with your program!

7. Remind yourself of the benefits of your exercise program. Remember that you will be around longer for your family, that exercise increases the production of endorphins in the brain so that you may even be a nicer person from exercise. The list of benefits is endless. Just find the ones that work for you in order to help you stay the course. Knowledge is power and in order for you to stick with your plan, you must understand the benefits to the program you are implementing. As you accomplish results it becomes easier to see the rewards, but early on you must remind yourself of why you are exercising and putting forth the effort in the first place. They include a reduced risk of heart disease, lower stress, improved longevity, a sharper mind, looking and feeling better, having more energy, etc. When it is time to shed your winter clothes, you do not want to look like you spent the winter hibernating!

Remember, nothing is more important to optimal health than a consistent exercise program. Research has proven that it may even be more important to your overall state of health than your diet! And you know how important I feel diet is to your health if you have read any of the articles I have written on the topic of health and wellness. Just a few simple changes in your daily routine allow you to add enough exercise to change both your current state of health and your future. Carve out the time from your daily schedule- your body will thank you for it!