This week’s fitness tip:
You may be missing the camaraderie of the gym, the relaxation of swimming laps, or the social connection from walking or hiking with a group of friends. If you were used to attending a fitness class with a motivating instructor or trainer named Kathie Owen 😉, you might be disappointed in the intensity of workouts on your own.
Exercise can help ease depression, stress, and anxiety, and aid in the management of chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. By finding new ways to get moving and stay motivated, you can take charge of your mood and well-being and regain a sense of control.
While being fit won’t prevent you from catching illnesses, it does have many other protective effects. Physical activity releases endorphins, chemicals in your brain that revitalize your mind and body, and it can help to improve all aspects of your health. In addition to boosting your mood and improving sleep, exercise can also strengthen your immune system, something that is particularly important.
But don’t overdo it. While moderate physical activity supports immune function, too much intense activity—especially if you are not used to it—may have the opposite effect and suppress your immune system.
Consider your energy levels, any ongoing health concerns, and the time you have available, then set reasonable goals focusing on activities you enjoy. You’re more likely to stick to an exercise plan if you start small, celebrate your successes, and build up gradually.
Prioritize your workouts. People who put their fitness activities on the same calendar as their regular appointments tend to stick to their plan. You wouldn’t cancel your appointment with your dentist because you were busy with work or just didn’t feel like it at that moment. Rather, you’d fulfill your obligation and then return to work afterwards.
Workout at the time that’s right for you. Many people who maintain a long-term exercise program workout in the mornings. Completing your fitness routine in the morning can energize you and set a positive tone for the rest of the day. Others find it helpful to take a break from work and get moving in the afternoon when their energy is flagging. A burst of activity can stimulate the brain and help you push through the rest of the tasks on your to-do list.
Be specific in your goals—and track your workouts. Rather than aim to “get in better shape,” set a concrete goal such as “walk 30 minutes in the morning on Monday/Wednesday/Friday/Saturday.” Try one of the many fitness trackers or smartphone apps available to keep a record of your progress—or simply use a calendar to note the length of your workout, distance, and effort level. Tracking your progress can help keep you accountable, provide a sense of accomplishment, and encourage you to keep going.
Say it out loud. Tell a friend what your goals and routines are or post about it on social media. You’re less likely to skip a session if you know your friends will be asking about how you got on. And if they give you positive feedback, it will give you a boost for your next session. Working out with a buddy can also help keep you on track. Set up regular times to exercise together—either at a social distance or on a phone or video call—and offer each other support and encouragement.