Many of us try to exercise often and don’t always succeed, succumb to defeat, and live with guilt and shame. Guilt and shame can motivate us to return to a program out of obligation rather than willingness and enjoyment. Thus, it ends up feeling like more work we have to do rather than want to do. And, it becomes self-punishing or obsessive, focused solely on calorie burning, weight/fat loss, or muscle building.
Let’s re-frame exercise as movement throughout our day. An example of exercise is going for a mile walk to strengthen your legs, burn some calories, and stretch your muscles. Walking a mile to the store to pick up something for dinner is an example of movement. Both may use the body in the same way, but the intention of the action is significantly different – the former carved out time for movement and the latter with movement as a part of everyday living.
Some other everyday activities are taking the stairs in a parking structure at work, or finding the farthest parking spot so you have to walk a longer distance to get where you’re going. Other examples include: Carrying groceries rather than wheeling the bags to your car. Hiding your remote control so you have to manually get up and change the channel (there was a time when this was the only option!), and vacuuming your home.
When I am standing in line at the market, I like to do toe raises. I may look a little strange (or impatient, or like I need to use the restroom!) lifting my heels on to my tippy toes repeatedly, but it’s good for balance and leg strength. When I am walking my dogs, sometimes I will do a quick sprint to get my heart rate up – the dogs love it! I also like to do some lunges when I am on a long walk. It helps with muscle strength, balance and coordination.
I actually enjoy bodyweight exercises because you can do them anywhere and you don’t need any weights or special equipment. A couple summers ago my family and I took a road trip across the country. We were sitting in the car for 4 – 6 hours at a stretch. I did some chair yoga (which I also do on airplanes and in waiting rooms!) because I had to find any opportunity to move!
At every rest stop I used our station wagon as a workout tool. I put the tailgate down and did some elevated push-ups and tricep dips, and I pressed my back against the car and got into a squat position for 10 breaths to strengthen my leg and back muscles. I did a few jumping jacks and lunged my way to the restroom. A woman was walking out of the rest stop market and yelled, “Go girl!” and gave me the bicep solute. I am glad it was entertaining for patrons as well!
Just remember, exercise is one strategy for moving our bodies. There are unlimited ways to become more active! Make a list of some fun activities that require you to move your body. It could be as simple as walking (listening to music, a podcast or audiobook), hiking, biking, gardening, walking your pets, dancing with friends (or with yourself!), jumping rope, and playing tag or kicking a ball with your kids or grandkids.
Exercising with others provides an opportunity for increased social contact, and it’s helpful to have the motivation of our peers. Support and encouragement from those who are in the same boat, and who share our struggles and successes, enables us to feel less alone.
Schedule a walk, class, or other activity with a friend or colleague whenever possible. Planning an activity with another person or group gives us accountability to the people expecting us to participate. You will be less likely to change your mind if you know someone else is waiting and counting on you to be there. Plus, it can be a lot more fun and the time spent will likely feel like it flew by!
There are many free apps to support activity like Strong, JefFit, and Strava to name a few. Also, there are many free exercise channels on YouTube like Yoga By Adrienne, BodyFit By Amy, NYT 7-minute workouts, and many more.
At WeHeal, we can connect you with a health mentor to support your goals, uncover obstacles, and find solutions in an encouraging and empowering way.
Some free resources:
Yoga with Adriene (YouTube channel)