We are really out of shape! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two out of every three Americans are overweight and one-third is clinically obese. Regular exercise would greatly improve the situation, but according to the American College of Sports Medicine, less than half of all Americans get the recommended amount of exercise. This is compounded by the fact that more than 50% of the people who begin an exercise program abandon it within the first six months. This happens for five primary reasons: injury, a lack of time, boredom, a lack of support and a lack of motivation. The good news is there are specific steps we can take to address each of these problems.
1. Injury. Injuries are the single biggest reason people abandon their exercise programs. An injury can include significant damage to muscle tissue such as a sprain, or the minor muscle damage that causes soreness. Either situation can diminish your motivation to exercise. The most effective way to deal with injuries is to avoid them. You can do this by warming up before exercise, by starting with a simple exercise regimen and expanding it over time, by learning the proper form for every exercise, and by engaging in a variety of aerobic and strength training activities.
2. A Lack of Time. The number one excuse for not exercising is, you guessed it, a lack of time. No one ever thinks they have enough time to work out but the truth is, you only need to spend about 30 minutes, 5-6 days-a-week to get significant health benefits from exercise. In addition, you don’t need a formal exercise regimen. Instead, try to make increased physical activity a part of your daily life. You can do this by cycling to work or school, by engaging in physical activities with your children (e.g., throwing a Frisbee), by participating in sports activities you enjoy (but be careful, this is how injuries often occur), by walking on a daily basis, or by doing household activities (e.g., mowing the lawn, shoveling snow).
3. Boredom. Another reason people stop exercising is because they get bored. Therefore, it is important to have variety in your physical activities. Try to do different exercises day-to-day or week-to-week. Select activities you enjoy, not those someone else says you should do. Remember, there is no best exercise. Anything that gets you moving will enhance your fitness and overall health.
4. A Lack of Support. It is difficult to engage in a successful, long-term exercise program without the psychological support of your family, friends and even co-workers. Develop this support by exercising with others. This is especially powerful early in your exercise regimen. It is much harder to skip a workout if you have one or two friends exercising with you.
5. A Lack of Motivation. Each of the aforementioned factors can have a negative impact on your motivation to exercise. However, at the end of the day, you must define your reasons for exercising. Are you trying to get into shape for an athletic event? Perhaps you want to look better for an upcoming social engagement. Maybe you want to reduce your risk for disease. Whatever your reasons are, clarify them in your mind and always keep them in front of you. One way to do this is to write down your reasons for exercising and post them in highly visible areas. This will give you a constant reminder of why you are exercising and can motivate you to continue through difficult periods when your enthusiasm is low.