How to Fit Activity into Your Lifestyle
It’s Highmark Walk season, and with that comes the realization that maybe your New Year’s resolution didn’t quite pan out the way you expected. It’s possible that your grand plans for exercise! weight loss! healthy habits! got lost somewhere between then and now. Happens to all of us.
But don’t worry! Springtime is a much more natural launch point for trying new things and planning to walk with us on the North Shore in Pittsburgh (or wherever!) on May 9 is a great goal to set to help kick-start yourself into building new habits while also supporting a great cause.
Over the next few months, I’ll be exploring topics on general wellness to encourage you to not only join us in the Highmark Walk but also to offer you a handful of resources to reference as we embark on our quest towards healthier lifestyles for everyone.
How Do We Fit Activity into Our Everyday Lives?
Dr. Michael Greisler—director of InVision Behavioral Health and licensed Doctor of Psychology— has talked about why we should practice self-care, and why it’s especially important for those in our industry. And while not everyone immediately thinks of physical activity as self-care, it’s actually one of the best methods for achieving more energy, lower stress levels, and healthier bodies.
Regular physical activity positively impacts our lives, but we all face barriers to building healthy habits, making it difficult to take full advantage of its benefits. How can we surpass them?
Make it a priority
When we don’t place any importance on physical activity, it makes sense we’d end up not doing anything at all. Many people put off making plans for regular exercise with claims like “I don’t have the time” or “I’m just too tired.”
Making activity a priority doesn’t mean shucking our responsibilities and other commitments. It means recognizing that regular exercise will help us be better in all aspects of our lives, giving us the energy to tackle these responsibilities and commitments more efficiently.
Let’s look at it this way: If you’re exhausted at the end of each day and think there’s no way you could possibly work up the energy to go for a walk, remember that taking that walk will eventually help alleviate your exhaustion. You’ll probably come to look forward to it instead of avoiding it with enough repetition.
Maybe going for a walk isn’t where you’re at right now. As we think about introducing regular physical activity to our lives, we don’t need to push ourselves to be marathon runners, join a gym, buy new sneakers, or invest in expensive fitness trackers. Aim to be mindful, to understand that even small amounts of activity are enough to bring a windfall of benefits to your life.
It’s okay—even encouraged—to start small, especially if you’ve never been one for much physical activity. And if you have a mental illness like anxiety or depression, overwhelming yourself with more than you’re ready to handle will only make these conditions worse.
Starting small means examining your lifestyle and finding areas where you can insert physical activity without significant disruption to your usual routine. Do you find yourself taking the elevator every morning? Choose the stairs, if you’re able. Spend a lot of time behind the wheel? Park your car in the farthest parking spot from your destination, if you can. Little changes like these will have big impacts on your overall health and well-being the longer you commit to them.
Focus on activities you enjoy
If you think you have to enjoy walking around the block, running on a treadmill, or biking on a stationary bike to benefit from exercise, dispel that thought from your mind right now.
Anything can be exercise as long as it moves your body and increases your heart rate. Dancing, cleaning, shopping, or gardening are all valid and acceptable exercises that will achieve results. Even if your favorite activity is playing video games, you can make it physical by adding in exercise elements like jogging in place between levels or doing 10 push-ups after you make a mistake. Get creative with it!
Of course, you don’t have to completely rule out more traditional exercises like brisk walking, running, biking, weightlifting, or yoga if those are the activities you want to pursue. As long as you enjoy it, and you’re working on it for a sustained period of time, you’re on the right track.
Do it with friends
If you’re already doing an activity you like, make it doubly fun by doing it with your friends or family. Being physically active alone—especially if you’re in public, like taking a walk or utilizing an outdoor fitness park—can be intimidating, or even scary, but exercising with a person or people you trust can be relieving and motivating, and you can hold each other accountable as you strive to meet your respective goals.
Consider joining community meet-ups—through websites and apps like Meetup or Facebook Groups—to find people who are all working toward similar exercise goals. Fitness-minded entertainment venues, like THROW Axe Throwing or ASCEND Rock Climbing, get creative with exercise and are super fun to do in groups. Not only do groups and activities like these make physical activity exciting, but also they’re great opportunities to meet new people and build life-long friendships while working toward a healthier you.
Small Changes Can Have Big Impacts
You don’t have to suffer to achieve results. The best we can do for ourselves is recognize the benefits of regular exercise and how we can incorporate that into our lives doing the things we already like to do to reach our goals.
But if you’ve never really thought about setting fitness goals, or you’ve never set them before, keep following this series to learn more. In the next article, I’ll be discussing how to set goals so we’re in the best position to achieve them.