How to Form a Habit of Exercise

You don’t need me to tell you the benefits of exercise. It lowers blood pressure, improves sleep, reduces depression and anxiety, revs your metabolism, and boosts your spirits overall.

Even better, excessive exercise isn’t required to make a difference. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, or a combination of both, per week. That’s just over 20 minutes a day.

And yet, you may feel squirmy as excuses fill your head. Let’s address those.

Three Excuses to Not Exercise, and Some Simple Habits to Help You Overcome Them

I don’t have time.

You have time for anything you want to make time for. If you don’t want to make time for exercise, make the most of one minute, or five, seven, or 10. Utilize snippets of time you might otherwise spend doing nothing or watching TV.

In one minute, you can do almost 100 jumping jacks; in five, you can walk to the corner and back. Break down seven minutes into 30-second segments: You can march in place, do countertop push-ups, jump rope, do squats, stand up and sit down, hold a plank (my mother is 91 and can still do these), and march up and down a single step. Repeat and voila! You’ve performed an exercise circuit.

I don’t like to run.

I like running, but it’s tough on my joints. So I power walk, swim, take spin classes, jump rope… If those aren’t your idea of fun, try dancing. Or gardening. Imagine how sore your arms feel after an hour of pulling weeds, or how many times you stand and squat while planting or pruning. You can even turn housecleaning into a workout. Take a peek here to learn how.

Find something you like! Your neighbor might swear by water aerobics, but if you don’t like it, you won’t do it.

I don’t want to join a gym.

Then don’t! I belong to one, but never use the weights or treadmills. I swim laps and take cycling classes — activities I can’t do at home. I could buy a Peloton, but those are expensive and scary. I love the camaraderie of our spin class. We sweat together and have a good time.

There’s plenty you can do without a gym membership. Check out workout videos online or borrow some from your local library. Find a friend to walk with every morning. If you have a workout buddy, you’re more likely to workout.

Exercise is fun when you find an activity you like and integrate it into your schedule. You might even grow to love it!

A Few More Tips to Help You Get into the Habit of Exercising

Turn exercise into a routine.

Decide you’ll do something 15 minutes every day — then do it. Within a week or two, you’ll get antsy if you don’t move a little.

Break up your activity.

If you’re at home all day, set a timer for 30 minutes. When it goes off, move for a couple minutes. Repeat all day; by the time Wheel of Fortune rolls around, you’ll have completed a half hour or so of movement.

Don’t just sit and watch TV.

Move during the commercials. Go upstairs and back down. Or stand up and sit down until the show returns.

Be nice to yourself.

Berating yourself for feeling tired or missing a workout won’t motivate you to continue. Don’t exercise if you feel ill or fatigued. It’s OK to miss a workout! You can start again tomorrow.

If you have questions about working out or making the best use of your exercise time, shoot me an email: ohlesliebarker@gmail.com.

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