Why do some of us hate exercise? And how do you get past that to reap the benefits of getting your body moving?
Humans did not evolve to “exercise”
Throughout most of human history, there was a shortage of food and activity was not a matter of choice. For millennia, humans had to move around to find food, and once fed, they rested to conserve energy, because they didn’t know when they would eat again. So if you feel like sitting down to watch Netflix instead of hitting the gym, you might take comfort in knowing that rest is a natural human tendency.
That said, our 21st century lifestyle means that we spend far too much time sitting down and lounging. With technology, cars, and other labor-saving devices, movement is no longer necessary for survival.
However, being physically inactive is terrible for our health. A meta-analysis published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet found that physical inactivity is associated with an increased chance of cancer and other pathologies.
How much physical activity do you need?
In Australia it is recommended that adults (aged 18-65) get at least 150 minutes (although 300 is preferable) of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. Moderate-intensity exercises include brisk walking, light cycling, or mowing the lawn.
In case you want to do vigorous physical activity, you will only need half of that (75-150 minutes a week). Vigorous activity is anything intense enough that you have difficulty carrying on a conversation: jogging or running while playing a sport like soccer or tennis.
Various types of activity are recommended, as different physical activities have different benefits. Muscle-strengthening exercises, such as lifting weights or doing push-ups, should be done twice a week to keep your muscles and bones strong. If all of that is starting to sound too complicated, rest assured that ANY exercise is good. You don’t have to meet any physical activity goals to benefit from it.
10 scientifically proven recommendations
According to physiologists, there are two main types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. The latter comes from within: doing something for the personal reward or challenge it means. Extrinsic motivation comes from external factors, such as trying to earn a reward or avoid punishment. You can increase your intrinsic motivation by identifying why exercise is important to you.
1. Identify your “why”: do you want to exercise for your health? For your children? For how does it make you feel? Exercise has long-term health benefits, indirect benefits for your children, and immediate effects on your mood and vitality. Keeping in mind what you want to gain from exercise can stimulate you to do something.
2.Coordinate an appointment with someone to exercise together: you will be more likely to comply, because you will not want to look bad with those people. In addition, research indicates that people exercise more when they do it with family members or friends than when they do it alone.
3. Reward yourself: by buying a new piece of clothing or shoes that you like to exercise in. Make sure that reward is tied to achieving a certain amount of exercise, so you deserve it.
4. Get an activity monitor: These have a number of tools designed to promote motivation, such as giving reminders, measuring achievements and setting goals. There is a plethora of studies suggesting that activity trackers increase physical activity.
5. Exercise at the same time of day: so that it becomes a habit. Research indicates that exercising in the morning establishes a habit faster than exercising in the evening.
6. Do activities you enjoy: Starting a new exercise habit is hard enough. Increase the chances of persevering by doing an activity you like. Also, you may be exercising more intensely without realizing if you are enjoying the activity. If you hate running, don’t. Take a long walk in nature.
7. Start slowly: end up wanting to do more, instead of overdoing it. This also reduces the chances of feeling muscle pain or injury.
8. Listening to lively music improves mood: and reduces the perception of effort, which promotes better results. These benefits are particularly effective with rhythmic or repetitive exercises, such as walking or running.
9. Take your dog for a long walk: People who walk their dogs walk longer than those who don’t, and report feeling safer and more socially connected in their neighborhoods.
10. Make a financial commitment: Behavioral economic theory recognizes that humans are motivated by loss aversion. Some commercial websites have used this for the sake of health by having people enter into a “contractual commitment” where they pay a deposit which they lose if the promise of healthy behavior is not fulfilled. This strategy has been proven to improve physical activity, medication adherence, and weight loss.
Follow these tips and you could end up loving exercise and encouraging others to do the same. You must be patient and keep in mind that the goals are long-term: it takes about three or four months to form an exercise habit. After that, intrinsic motivators will take over to keep your routine going. And who knows, maybe you’ll end up being one of those people addicted to exercise, inspiring your friends and family to do it too.