Updated: Oct 2, 2019
Despite the title of this blog, I don't like using the word exercise - it has such a negative connotation to it! It takes me back to when I had a gym membership and how awful I felt at the thought of having to go to the gym to use these machines that I hated, and how guilty I felt when I put off going there. I was never made for the gym. Eventually I realised this and stopped forcing myself to go.
I prefer to use 'activity' or just 'movement'. So many people are out of touch with their bodies/aren't treating their bodies with respect, and a lack of movement is a big part of this. I get it- it's hard to find the time when we can end up spending most of our lives sitting down (in the car, at the desk, on the couch). But there are so many benefits of moving, and for you to be able to make the choice to start being more active, you need to have a reason to. Whether it's being able to sleep better, improving your mood, getting more flexible, having more energy throughout the day or even living longer, find your motive to move and focus on it.
1. Assess how you feel about your current activities Don't get trapped in the idea of using activity as a means of weight loss or expending calories, or really anything you're doing because it's a 'need to' rather than a 'want to'. This way of thinking so easily leads to dread, shame and guilt. If you feel this way about any of the current activities you're doing, you're doing them for the wrong reasons. Don't get me wrong, sometimes it can be challenging starting up a new form of activity and establish some sort of routine with it, but if thinking about a planned activity often makes you dread the thought of actually doing it, it probably isn't the activity for you.
2. Find something you actually like doing
Is there an activity you've been curious about or always wanted to try? This is an opportunity to have some fun. A lot of places offer free trial classes in anything from dance (salsa, Zuumba, ballroom, hip hop, bachata, ballet...) to water sports (kayaking, swimming, stand up paddle boarding, snorkelling...) to gym-based sports (boxing, aerobics, karate, CrossFit, RPM). If you can't find free trials, see if the activity has home videos you can try (there's lots on Youtube, and they're great for those of us who don't like gyms or don't have the money for/access to one) or perhaps you know someone with the equipment you need to try it. If you're experiencing a lot of stress in life, perhaps trying something relaxing like yoga, tai chi or low-impact pilates will help. Really, what's the worst that can happen by trying something new? Maybe you learn that it isn't for you right now, and that's okay! On to the next thing.
Some other things to try:
Game consoles with games that involve activity (like a Wii)
Community rubbish clean-ups
Joining a group or class is also a great way to integrate yourself into your community and meet people, which leads to my next point...
3. Incorporate socialising into your activities
Find a buddy who you have a mutual activity of interest in. This way, you'll be much more likely to get out and move when you're looking forward to spending time with friends. You can also provide accountability for one another- it's hard to back out of something when someone else is involved too! If you can't find someone to do your favourite activities with or can't find a time when you're both free, phone a friend while you're on a walk (or listen to your favourite music or podcast). Or better- instead of catching up over coffee, catch up over a walk (and end with coffee!). If you have kids or dogs (or know ones who you can look after), get them outside and play with them.
4. Keep things fresh
If you're someone who doesn't do well with repetitiveness or commitment, choose a few activities and space them out rather than doing one thing frequently. If you're a member at a gym with classes, take advantage of all of the different classes available. If you enjoy walking, running or cycling, go on different routes and explore! Something I love to do is find different hiking trails and parks to walk in. It's amazing how many beautiful hidden trails I've found!
5. Don't forget about incidental activity
Fortunately for us Westerners in the current day, we have the money and privilege to live lives of ease and efficiency, but at the same time it's making us more sedentary. Think about your usual day and the things that make you less inclined to move- whether that be having a car, living in a built-up area, being able to do more tasks from home or perhaps machines to clean our things. Instead of doing laps around the car park to find a spot, park far away and get in a little walk on the way to your destination. Same if you're taking public transport- get off a stop (or a few) earlier and walk the rest of the way. Take stairs instead of lifts and escalators. If you need to go anywhere close by, walk. If all else fails, put on your favourite upbeat music and have a dance party for one!
As an introvert I love to do things on my own where I can take some time to recharge. Eventually I learnt that the place where I thrive is in nature, and now I can't go more than a few days without it. I absolutely love hiking through the foothills near where I live, away from the city, traffic and people. It allows me to recharge, release my pent-up energy and mull over ideas and thoughts in my head. I've been doing it almost everyday for the past five years now (with a few breaks here and there) and rather than dreading moving my body, like I did when I was going to the gym, now I can't wait to get out and move.