It seems to me that physical activity gets a bad rap. Too often physical activity is viewed through a lens of negativity or defeatism. We look at the government’s physical activity guidelines and groan in despair. Plus, it can seem overwhelming to cram physical activity into our already-hectic lives. We’ve all been there – feeling too tired, not having enough time, or merely choosing to do something simpler. For all these reasons and many more, physical activity can be relegated to a position of something unpleasant, or worse.
If you’re still reading, good, as I aim to provide some thoughts that I hope will help get you moving. First and foremost, if you’ve been taking on some type of physical activity that you hate, by all means stop. Explore some new exercises, try a new activity, or ask a friend if you can join in on something they enjoy – but don’t keep banging your head against the same wall. Secondly, as a close runner-up, there’s no need to jump to extremes. Remember, some physical activity is better than none. Start with something simple, and as you grow more confident in your abilities – and hopefully start to enjoy the process more – gradually increase your activity from there. Simple ways to ease into exercise might include parking farther away, walking while on the phone, taking the stairs, doing some gentle stretching or weight lifting while watching television, taking on a little more yard work or household chores that require movement, or anything else that fits into your daily routine. As with most things in life, exercise becomes easier with practice, both in terms of our bodies’ abilities to perform and our mental fortitude to accomplish the task at hand.
Finally, let’s examine the mental challenge that gets in the way of being more physically active. Many people focus their attention on the physical and logistical challenges of exercising, failing to consider the end result. Do you feel better/proud/encouraged/uplifted after physical activity? If your answer is, “Yes,” I would encourage you to mentally skip ahead and focus on that invigorating end-result and mentally bypass the difficulty of getting started. On the other hand, if your answer is, “No,” I challenge you to think about how you might be able to reach this effect. Maybe it means scaling down to something more manageable, exercising with friends or family, adjusting lofty expectations, or setting easily-attainable goals. Focus on the things that are within your power to control and make a commitment you can fulfill – being strategic and realistic in our aims is a powerful tool to support success and build confidence.
We have a lot to gain through physical activity—from the prevention and management of chronic diseases, better sleep, improved stress management, needing fewer medications, and better emotional and mental health. Moreover, everyone, regardless of their background, can benefit from physical activity. So, if you’ve mentally categorized physical activity as something negative or painful, I warmly invite and encourage you to think about it through a different lens and focus on the positives. There’s a type of physical activity out there for everyone, and this summer, I urge you to identify and practice one that you enjoy.