How Can I Enjoy Exercise?

 

How to Actually Enjoy a Habit

 

One of my clients (we’ll call her Rachel) was trying to lose excess weight, feel better and get stronger. But she detested exercise. We’ve all been there.

As we talked more, it turned out that Rachel liked to be outside, but had a busy schedule with work and kids. When we dissected her busy schedule, we discovered that:

  • When she took her son to competitive soccer practice twice a week, AFTER dropping him off, she had a 45-minute window. Rachel decided that she could walk/jog/run (speed depending on how she was feeling that day) the perimeter of the field during that time.
  • She had a 40-minute break at work AFTER she clocked out for lunch Monday through Friday. She planned to invite some co-workers to go walking with her during lunch to make it more fun.
  • Three mornings a week (Monday, Thursday and Saturday) AFTER Rachel woke up she decided that instead of watching the news for 30 minutes indoors, she would go outside on her patio and lift weights or ride a stationary bike while she listened to the news. It turns out she could workout at home too.

Like any new thing we start, the first few weeks of her new exercise routine were rough for Rachel. But she persevered. Eventually, lo and behold, she started liking exercise! Rachel discovered that the keys to her success in adopting movement into her busy life was to plan it in AFTER she did a repetitive activity like dropping off her son, clocking out for lunch and waking up.

Little did she know that by exercising after a routine activity, she was reprogramming her brain and developing automatic exercise habits.

The original challenge for Rachel was finding time to work in exercise (or “movement”), and finding something she enjoyed. Once we resolved those two issues, she practiced doing the scheduled exercises until they became a habit. The end result: Rachel likes the way she feels and plans to continue her new exercise routine. The nice thing is she doesn’t have to consistently think about when or what she’s going to do for exercise anymore. Movement is built into her week automatically.

To get on a path where your exercise routine becomes an automatic habit, like it did for Rachel, consider doing exercise AFTER a routine activity. That way you’ll find yourself automatically exercising when your routine activity is completed. And don’t forget to make it fun!

 

How Much Should I Exercise Each Week?

 

To mobilize fat stores (i.e. lose excess weight) and strengthen muscle, be sure to move your muscles a minimum of 5 hours (300 minutes) a week. Five hours really isn’t that much! You can fit a lot of different exercises into that window of time, including cardio (like jogging or doing jumping jacks), strength training (like lifting weights or doing lunges), and flexibility (like practicing yoga).

Five hours a week may seem like a lot of time to dedicate to exercise, but if you break it down, it’s a SMALL percentage of your free time. Look at this table for your time breakdown:

 

 

Percentage of Free Time Spent on 5-Hour Exercise Routine

 

Option A Option B

 

Total hours in a week 168 hours 168 hours

Minus 8 hours of sleep x 7 nights = 56 sleep hours

-56

-56

Minus 40 hours of work per week

-40

-40

Minus 30 minutes a meal (3 meals a day x 7 days)

-10.5

 

Or Minus 60 minutes a meal (3 meals a day x 7 days)

 

-21

Total hours of free time per week

= 61.5

= 51

Percent of free time a week spent on exercise (if you exercise 5 hours a week)

Roughly 8%

Roughly 10%

 

Not all of our schedules look like this. Some of us have a crazy work schedule running at about 80 hours per week. Some of us have a long commute or several children with different needs. But, even if we have less free time than the chart shows above, we will probably end up using LESS free time per week to move our bodies than we think.

 

What Types of Exercise Should I Do?

 

Adults should exercise at least 2.5 to 5 hours a week at a moderate intensity level (e.g. walking, tennis doubles, heavy cleaning like washing windows), according to the newest guidelines for Americans. We should exercise at least 75 to 150 minutes (1.25 to 2.5 hours) a week if the exercise is vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (e.g. running, fast cycling, jumping rope). You can also do a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Do muscle-strengthening activities (e.g. lifting weights, lunges, working with resistance bands, heavy gardening like digging and shoveling) two or more days a week.

To assess how hard you’re working out and where you fall in the intensity category, use the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. It’s a simple metric that gauges how you’re feeling during exercise. Tables 1–2 below explain how the numbers can be used.

 

Table 1

Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale

Aerobic Activities

Muscle-Strengthening Activities

0

No exertion at all

No exertion at all

1

2

Very light

Very light

3

4

5

6

Moderate-intensity activities

Light, comfortable breathing, able to hold a conversation.

Lightweight

Light, able to talk, but difficult to hold a conversation. Aware that breathing is harder.

Somewhat light — weight that can be used as a warmup or preparation for heavier weights.

Somewhat hard, breathing starts to get uncomfortable.

Somewhat hard — weight that can be moved for at least 8 repetitions.

7

8

9

Vigorous-intensity activities

Hard, uncomfortable deep and forceful breathing; not wanting to talk.

Hard — weight that you can only complete 2–3 more repetitions.

Extremely hard

Extremely hard — weight that you can only complete 1 more repetition.

10

Maximum Exertion

Absolute Maximum

 

 

Table 2

Exercise Guidelines for Adults

Type of Exercise

Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale 0–10

Time per Week

Moderate-intensity aerobic activity

Light to somewhat hard (RPE 3–6)

150 to 300 minutes

(2.5 to 5 hours)

Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity

Somewhat hard to very hard (RPE 7–9)

75 to 150 minutes

(1.25 to 2.5 hours)

Combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity

Alternate light/somewhat hard (RPE 3–6) with somewhat/very hard (RPE 7–9)

150 to 300 minutes

(2.5 to 5 hours)

Muscle-strengthening activity

·

Light weight, somewhat hard and hard, depending on goals (RPE 4–8)

2 or more days a week

Balance training activity (older adults)

·

 

2 or more days a week

 

Exercise While Distracting Yourself

 

The average American adult watches four hours of TV A DAY (according to The New York Times)! I get it — we want to decompress after a stressful day at work/with family. We are in the golden age of TV after all and there are SO MANY good shows and movies on Netflix, HBO, etc.

Life hack: workout out while you’re watching TV. You could even make TV watching an integrated part of your exercise routine. Put a stationary bike, treadmill, elliptical trainer, rowing machine, or whatever you like to do in your TV viewing area. For safety tips check out how to exercise while watching TV on wikiHow.

 

How Do I Make Exercise a Habit?

 

6 NATURE Steps

As a certified personal trainer, I like to use my NATURE steps to help my clients make exercise a part of their lifestyle. The steps are:

 

N — Notice:

Notice and plan when you can add exercise and movement into each day

 

A — Analyze:

Analyze the results of different exercise routines and decide which one works best for you

 

T — Train:

Train your brain to form new positive connections with exercise by staying consistent

 

U — Unite:

Unite your exercise routine with nutrition and meditation to form a healthy, natural lifestyle

 

R — Renew:

Renew your commitment to exercising by moving regularly, even when it’s difficult

 

E — Execute:

Execute these steps again to reinforce your new exercise routine and craving for movement

 

Notice

NOTICE the moments in your day when you can sneak in some exercise and then start keeping an exercise log. When you begin paying attention to what you do every day and how much time you spend doing those activities, you can plan your exercise time in and make an exercise routine that works for you. Use this sample workout log as an example of how to record your exercise, or create your own.

 

Sample Workouts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DATE

ACTIVITY

DURATION
(minutes)

DISTANCE
(miles/km)

PACE
(per hour)

CALORIES BURNED (if known)

NOTES

Cross Trainer

40

2.50

3.75

380

Felt great!

Treadmill

30

3.00

6.00

423

 

Part of my 10k training

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Workouts

 

 

 

 

 

 

DATE

ACTIVITY

DURATION
(minutes)

DISTANCE
(miles/km)

PACE
(per hour)

CALORIES BURNED (if known)

NOTES

 

 

Analyze

Once you’ve collected information on how you spend your time and when it works for you to exercise, ANALYZE the results. If you struggle with finding blocks of time, I promise you can find opportunities to add movement. Some of the busiest people I know put exercise mats on their office floors. Every hour on the hour they do sit-ups. If it’s 9:00 a.m., they’ll do 9 sit-ups. When it’s 1:00 p.m. they’ll do 13, etc. The mat on the floor is the reminder for them to do sit-ups and they end up developing great core strength over time!

Like mentioned above, a trick to remembering to do some kind of movement is to do it after a routine activity. For example, a client of mine put a sign on the back of his office chair which was in plain view from his office door that said “pushups.” When he walked into his office and saw the sign, he did 10 pushups. If he exited the office and came back in, he would do another set of 10 pushups, and so on. By the end of his work day he did over 100 pushups. His new behavior happened after he walked into his office and saw the “pushups” sign. Over time he automatically got down on the floor to bang out the pushups when he walked into his office.

You don’t need large blocks of time to get your exercise in. You can exercise in bite-sized pieces frequently and receive huge returns. Remember, it’s the total accumulative time every week that helps decrease body fat and strengthen your muscles.

 

Train

Next, TRAIN yourself to do your new exercise plan by starting with small, simple steps and then be patient. A recent study on diet and exercise behavior changes showed that it took the participants 18 to 254 days to make a new health behavior automatic. Good news: even if they missed doing the new behavior from time to time they were still able to reach automaticity.

So when you begin a new exercise behavior, expect that it will take you about 2 to 8 months for the new behavior to become automatic. The study concluded that the average time for a new behavior to become automatic was 66 days. So be patient and persistent and you can have positive results with a new exercise routine, even when you miss a few sessions along the way.

 

Unite

One way to keep up a new exercise program is to UNITE your new exercise practice with a healthy lifestyle. In my NATURE steps, UNITE joins exercise with good eating and meditation. You’ll find that as you exercise more, it dovetails into positive changes in your eating and psychological well-being (by helping to reduce stress and anxiety) and all-around wellness and longevity.

In fact, exercise is so beneficial for your health that it should be considered a drug. Exercise acts like a pharmaceutical drug and can even help cure diseases. An article in the British Journal of Pharmacology says that sufficient exercise can help prevent and treat diseases like depression, diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Disclaimer: Of course, each individual should take into account their own bodies and exercise only when it is safe for them to do so.

 

Renew

RENEW your commitment to exercise by moving every day — preferably outdoors where you can get fresh air. Recommitting to your goal to exercise also makes your body, your mind and even your spirit more of a priority. If you tried and failed at exercise routines in the past, refresh your relationship with exercise by doing something completely different than the normal regimen. It’s natural to get bored with our routines if they’re repeated day after day, and week after week. Remember to find ENJOYMENT in exercise.

Do you like team hand-eye sports? Try tennis, pickle ball, or badminton. Are you an adrenaline junkie? Try rock climbing or wakeboarding. Do you like group sports? Try soccer, field or ice hockey, baseball, volleyball or basketball. Would you prefer to work out on your own time? Try walking, jogging, biking, hiking, or swimming. It may take a few sessions of trial and error to find the right fit, but when you land that favorite activity, you’ll look forward to going back to it over and over again.

 

Execute

EXECUTE your new exercise routine by focusing on the process, not the outcome. When you start a new activity or work out, there is an initial learning curve that goes along with it. Be prepared for a little frustration. I recommend that you begin by building in one small new exercise behavior that you can master steadily over time. Then, start on another. Even if you go slow, you’ll find that incorporating new exercises and new habits is not easy. If you miss a session, show up the next time with a different resolve. Maybe you’ll get a new exercise behavior down in 18 days, or maybe it will take 66 or 254 days.

It’s not a race!

Regardless of the time it takes you to get there, stay the course. You will get there! The point is, never give up. Live today now. As Mother Theresa said “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

 

What Are the Health Benefits of Exercise?

 

Your body isn’t built to be sedentary. The longer you sit, the more agitated your body becomes because it’s meant to move. The evidence of this is found in the body’s design. Your body is a fascinating organism with over 600 muscles, 360 joints, 206 bones, 37.2 trillion body cells, and 100,000 miles of blood vessels.

Exercise Circulates Your Blood

Your blood depends on you to move around so it can circulate properly. Sitting, especially sitting with your shoulders slumped forward, as most do, restricts the expansion of your lungs and therefore limits the amount of oxygen available to filter into your blood. The greater amount of sitting, the less oxygen your cells receive.

Your blood vessels are set to move blood around, but they first need a signal from the muscles. No muscle movement, no signal. Inactivity then causes a remodeling in the blood vessels and an increase in blood pressure. This transmits an overall “decondition” message to your body which can put you at an increased risk for heart disease. Your heart is a muscle and like with any muscle, it needs proper care through regular movement.

 

Less Exercise Means More Fat Storage

A great way to store more fat is to sit. Sitting increases fat storage in the body by temporarily deactivating an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase which breaks down fats. When you’re inactive, your body is given the go-ahead to store more fat.

 

More Exercise Helps Your Brain

When you move your body, widespread areas of the brain physically change. Here are some of the changes that can happen in the brain after a single session of exercise:

  • increased positive brain chemicals like neurotransmitters (chemical substances that augment signaling)
  • improvements in executive functioning
  • enhancements in mood
  • increased stress resistance

Exercise can be used as a therapeutic tool to help prevent, delay, or treat cognitive decline in aging individuals, according to new exercise research. In addition, exercise can also be used as a powerful tool to enhance brain function in healthy individuals.

 

 

How Long After You Start Exercising Do You See Results?

 

Most people typically see positive adaptations to a new exercise routine within 3 to 6 weeks. It takes about this amount of time for muscles, nerves and circulatory system to adapt to exercise.

Signs of adjustment to exercise:

  • exercise feels easier
  • decreased muscle soreness
  • reduced blood pressure
  • heart rate improvement (e.g. breathing is easier even when exercise is the same speed)
  • better sleep
  • improved brain function
  • increased strength
  • better endurance

Since movement is restorative, if you’re not already moving at least five hours a week, I encourage you to get going. Let the steps of NATURE above assist you in getting in the minimum amount of physical activity.

You can do this!

 

References:

Muscle Strengthening Activities: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26049792

Behavior change time frame: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ejsp.674

Exercise acts as a drug: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3448908/

Blood vessels: https://www.fi.edu/heart/blood-vessels

Blood flow to muscles during exercise: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4551211/

Impact of inactivity on vasculature of humans: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2829129/

Exercise and fat storage: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10904050

Exercise and the brain: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5928534/

 

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