How to Add More Activity to Your Life
If you're sitting down to read this, try standing up or lay down on the couch and put your legs up. See, you just got some exercise! Adding more activity to your life is possible with a little "mindfulness". Even if you have physical disabilities or a health condition. In fact, many health problems are improved when we increase our activity level. We can normalize blood sugar, increase flexibility and balance, and lower blood pressure by adding activity.
First ask yourself:"Why do I want to add more activity to my life?" Activity burns calories, but that might not be your primary purpose. To get motivated and get moving, consider why you want to add more activity to your life. Maybe you want greater flexibility or good balance or sharper eye-hand coordination. Activity makes your digestive system more regular. Perhaps adding extra activity will help you tone and strengthen your muscles, giving you a greater sense of personal power and effectiveness. Increased activity helps blood flow to the brain. You just might be a little sharper in your mind, after a quick run down the hall or a short stroll around the block. Adding activity to your life may also decrease stress. Physical activity helps quiet an overactive mind. It also helps the mind make creative connections. So adding activity to your life may help you solve problems or design better mouse traps. And you might also gain a social life. When you're "on the move" other people are attracted to you. They'll want to join you in a walk, a dance, a team sport, or a gardening project.
Get to some basic principles about activity.
- If you can reach a desired object without moving, you won't be active. So move what you want AWAY from you, make it harder to get, so you have to put some effort in. That means getting rid of the TV remote control, parking at the edge of the parking lot, and picking a bank that is faster to walk to than drive to.
- Moving should feel good. If it hurts, you won't do it. If you even think you might feel uncomfortable in some way, you are likely to not do the activity. For example, many people abandon exercise because they dislike sweating or fear the social embarrassment of body odour.
- Some activities are more fun to do or provide some special interest. Consider what your passions are and plan activities around them. Walking on a treadmill is easier if you can watch the news or your favourite cooking show. Bird watching may help you hike up to an eagle's nest or have you paddling estuaries in a kayak, looking for shorebirds.
- Lower the "threat factor". This might be a fear of the cost of activity, in time or money or energy. Some people skip the gym workout because they think they must wear fancy clothing or pay for a pricey membership. Others skip the dog walk because they have over-committed to work projects. If you are out of shape, your first few days and weeks may totally exhaust you. But the real rewards come just a bit later, when you find that your extra activity has trimmed your waistline, lightened your step, and actually boosted your energy.
- An active person is more likely to keep active, so don't just think about it or talk about it. The hardest step is your first one.
- Pairing activity with something pleasant, or someone pleasant, makes it more likely to occur. Put something wonderful at the end of each burst of activity. Consider getting a pet. Dogs, cats, and rabbits are house pets that will want you to be active with them.
- Become mindful of your body's natural rhythms and cycles. The time of day you will prefer to exercise depends to some extent on other biological needs like sleep, eating, and sex drive.
- Notice when you are already active and make note of the details (day of week, time of day, location, setting, and what happened just before or just after your activity). Try to add even more to those activity events when possible. Also make notes about when you "veg out" as a couch potato.
- Notice if your activity level changes when you are around certain people. For example, parents may enjoy riding bicycles with their kids, or you may give up dance classes to watch TV with your new couch potato spouse.
- Where you work and when you work has an effect on your activity level. Night shift workers have more digestive upsets and often put on extra pounds. Desk jobs are notorious for caging employees in physical inactivity. Employers who foster stretch breaks and allow employees to travel stairwells to run errands may find they have a fitter work force.
- Look for activity opportunities embedded in your daily life. Put cast iron cookware on the lower cabinet shelves. Pull those weeds instead of using poison. Hand wash the car. Add an extra step to activities you already naturally do. Kneed your bread dough and hand mix your meat patties.
Take these basic principles and develop a personal strategy plan. Review step 2 and then write down two or three ideas for each principle that fit with your current lifestyle. You are not making yourself over into somebody else or trying out for the Olympics. Small changes are more easy to achieve and sustain. Small changes allow you to have "error-free learning", avoid the punishing aspects of trying too much too soon, and give you a quick sense of success and measurable accomplishment.
For each idea listed, write a smart objective. These objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-determined. For example, "I will skip my kitchen convenience gadgets and drive-through food trips. This means juicing my oranges by hand, using a manual can opener, using a spoon for mixing, grinding my spices, and chopping my vegetables. I will set a table and wash my dishes by hand. At least 5 of 7 days I will make a meal from scratch. and I will continue this habit for at least 3 weeks, to reinforce the pattern".
Now group your objectives by setting (eg inside or outside activities, winter or summer activities, work setting or home setting) and schedule them on your calendar by both date and time.
Keep a journal to track your progress. Assign time and cost estimates to each objective and then record the actual outcome. Review your estimates and measure your success. The more visible it is, the better. Don't be afraid to put yourself on a star chart or give yourself ribbons or tokens of achievement. Celebrate your added activity!
- The purpose(s) you choose for adding more activity to your life should be self-sustaining and long-lasting. If you want to add more activity just to lose weight for your son's wedding, you will have to find another "driver".
- Look for new hobbies that lend themselves to physical activity. Knitting & crocheting are rather sedentary hobbies. Raising sheep, sheering the fleece, washing and carding the wool, and spinning the fiber into yarn are more active processes.
- Look for job duties that you can modify to increase your activity. Ask for an office that is near a stairwell instead of the elevator. Consider jobs that have activity built in. Working as a mail carrier, floor nurse, safety officer, fireman, construction worker, housekeeper,landscape arborist, geologist, or ski instructor will require you to be fit and on the move.
- Volunteer for projects that get you moving. Unload food packs for a local food bank. Learn to coach little league or help out with parks & recreation department youth programs. Join a group that helps keep our highways clean or rebuilds hiking trails.
- There are some great websites that can help you identify activities, categorise calorie expenditures from exercise, and track your progress as you increase your activity level. Some programs are free or low cost. Other proprietary programs may be more costly but may offer superior value because of personalised assessment and coaching services. For example, here is a DVD on how to reinforce your exercise habit.
- Many employers and insurance companies now offer wellness programs that can guide you to achieve your activity goals. Your medical provider may find this resource on exercise and disease management helpful to mutually plan fitness goals. There are also national initiatives to get citizens moving and grants to help us all become more active. For example, in the United States, First Lady Michelle Obama, is a great advocate and role model.
- Physical activity may improve focus, especially for people with ADHD.
- WebMD offers some great advice on adding extra activity to your life. See articles on adding activity to reduce blood sugar in diabetes.Activity may also improve your chances of getting pregnant.Adding activity can help fight depression.Job-related exercise can help people stay healthy.Variety helps maintain the gains of added activity programs.
- Some activities are best left to athletes or require special training. Consult your medical provider and get professional advice before trying out new activities, to know in advance what the physical demands will be, what safety practices or equipment is needed, and what schedules and settings are best for your chosen activity.
- Listen to your body. If it hurts, don't just "push through it". Pain is a signal. Get professional medical advice to learn what your pain is communicating.
- Avoid extreme sports. Adding activity to your life won't last long if you free climb without a safety harness or try to ski in a blizzard.
- Avoid fad-type activities that don't seem to match your personality. DO add activities that you think you are likely to keep doing for the rest of your life. It takes at least 21 days to form a habit, and over a month to get it reinforced enough for maintenance.
- Vary your activities to make sure all muscle groups get exercised and rotate activities to keep your interest up and let some muscle groups have a "rest".
- Overworking your activity level will reduce activity or force an interruption, often from injury. Remember the star football player in high school who lived the rest of his life as a couch potato, because he'd already 'put in his dues'? or the athlete who wrenched a knee and had to give up a sports career?
- Don't let others discourage you. Making positive changes sometimes causes anxiety in others. They may feel competitive or unconsciously compare themselves and feel anxious or guilty because they are not active like you are. This can lead to "change-back" messages.
Video: Tips To Add More Activity To Your Daily Life
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