There’s no disputing it – exercise offers tremendous benefits to our bodies, brains, and lives. It’s been shown that people who exercise are more successful in preventing diseases like diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s than those who do not exercise. In addition to the physical benefits, exercise is also a powerful mood enhancer that can reverse the effects of stress, help combat depression, and improve learning and productivity. If you don’t currently have a regular exercise program, then what are you waiting for?
One of the most common excuses that people cite for not exercising is a lack of time. Of course, beginning a regimen of any type is going to require rearranging your schedule to allow for it. And it doesn’t have to require a tremendous amount of time, either – research shows that exercising for short bouts can be just as effective as longer workouts and perhaps easier to stick with, too. In fact, the majority of the health benefits of exercise are obtained within the first 20 minutes.
If you struggle with how to fit a 20-minute workout into your day, remember that by prioritizing your own health and wellness you will be forming a keystone habit that will allow you to be feel better and more successful in all areas of your life. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
• Get inspired: Perhaps you have a health condition you are trying to improve, or you want more energy to keep up with your kids. Or maybe climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is on your bucket list. Finding some inspiration and working toward a goal will help you to stay motivated. If you need more inspiration, read Born to Run – one of my favorite books.
• Determine what time of day is best for you: If you have more energy in the morning, try setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier and fitting in a brisk 10-minute walk before beginning your day. Perhaps you have the flexibility to exercise on your lunch hour and can join a nearby gym. If you choose to save your workout for the end of the day, then make a plan for how to handle last-minute distractions like dinner plans or happy hour.
• Block time on your calendar: decide how many days per week you aim to exercise (3-4 days is a good start) and then schedule it on your calendar. If it’s in writing, you will be more likely to honor the commitment.
• Prepare the night before: Get organized before you go to bed by gathering your fitness clothes. If you plan to exercise in the AM, then put your clothes on top of your alarm clock. If you’ll be heading out from work, pack a bag and leave it by the door so you don’t have one more thing to add to your morning routine.
• Choose a partner or join a group: Having someone else hold you accountable can be a great way to jumpstart a workout program. You’ll be less likely to skip workouts, and the time will fly by faster. Plus, you’ll have someone with whom to celebrate your progress. Try inviting a pal to join you for your morning walks, or a co-worker for an afternoon run. Like team sports? How about joining a softball or soccer league?
• Make it fun: There are more ways to get a great workout than running on a treadmill in a gym! Tennis, golf, hiking, biking, climbing, rowing, swimming, dancing…reconnect with what you loved to do as a child and you will find joy in exercising. And when you find the joy in it, you will find that you have created a healthy habit for life.