So, you are thinking about becoming physically as the Olympics draw near! Imagining yourself involved in physical activity is the first step in adopting a healthier lifestyle. You assessed the benefits of engaging in physical activity, and you determined your barriers to success. Congratulations! You have taken some important steps, and now it is time to continue down the road to becoming more physically active.
Perhaps you're waiting for the magic moment to make some changes. Why not start now? Do you remember a time when you were physically active and felt great? Physical activity does not have to follow the old and incorrect maxim of "no pain, no gain." Physical activity can be fun! Can you imagine taking a 15-minute walk on a beautiful day? Playing touch football with your kids in the backyard? You can do it! Remember, physical activity makes more energy than it takes, and taking just one of the following steps is all you need to get started.
Find the time
Figure out when you could possibly fit physical activity into your already busy schedule. You will find opportunities at home, work, and elsewhere (e.g., walking up and down the stairs for 15 minutes during your lunch break). What is important is discovering that you do have time in your schedule. All it takes is that first step. Remember, accumulating 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (such as brisk walking) 5 or more days of the week is recommended.
Remember your physical activity successes and interests
Think about physical activities that you have enjoyed or that sound interesting. Were there times in your life when you played a sport on a regular basis? Are you interested in taking a physical activity class such as aerobic kickboxing, tennis, or fly-fishing? Consider activities that you can do alone (e.g., walking) or with a friend (e.g., tennis), and include indoor and outdoor activities. Some possibilities include the following: walking, yoga, low-impact aerobics, gardening/yard work, frisbee, volleyball, swimming, basketball, dancing, skating, biking, tennis, hiking, stair climbing, softball, and jogging. Keep a list by your phone at work or home and jot down new ideas as they come to mind.
Develop a support network
Not yet convinced that you can become more physically active? That's where the people you know can help you out. Discuss your concerns with peers, family, friends, or co-workers who are physically active. Find out how they got started and what keeps them motivated. They might have some great "tips for success" about how to incorporate moderate-intensity physical activity into your daily routine. Turn to them for ideas, motivation, and support. Work together to get started and keep you going. Name two people with whom you will talk to and seek support. Set dates within the month for your discussion with them.
Recall your current level of activity
Nobody knows you better than you do. In this case, knowing your current level of activity will help you decide where there is room for change. Consider the following questions to help you recall your current level of activity.
- How often do you participate in physical activity of at least moderate intensity?
- How active is your job?
- How active are you during lunch or breaks at work?
- What do you tend to do before or after work?
- What kind of activities do you do on a typical weekend or day off work?
- How often do you do active indoor chores such as scrubbing the tub, cleaning out the garage, painting, washing windows, working on the house, or carrying out heavy bags of trash or recyclable goods?
- How often do you do active outdoor chores such as mowing the grass, washing and waxing the car, gardening, heavy yard work, caring for large animals, or doing home repair?
Be honest with yourself. Choose one of the following areas in which you think you can make realistic changes.
- Lunch/break time
- Before/after work
- Active indoor chores
- Active outdoor chores
Set small, specific goals
Okay. You've thought about your favorite physical activities, chosen a support network, and identified one target area that you want to address in the next month. This information can help you set some achievable goals. For example, if you chose physical activity at work as the target area you want to address this month, a specific goal might be to use the stairs instead of the elevator at least twice a week. This is always better than a general approach such as, "I will be more active this month." By starting small and increasing your goals at a pace that feels right for you, all the benefits of physical activity can be yours. And, if you have some setbacks, that's okay. Accept that lapses happen and begin again. You will achieve success.
It is also important to build on your goals. For example, if you are successfully walking once a week as your specific goal, after several weeks add an additional day. Now you'll be walking twice a week. The following month increase the number of days per week and the amount of time you walk. Also, add another activity such as cycling or gardening on the weekends.
You deserve a medal! Once you've set and achieved some specific goals, celebrate your successes-no matter how small. You might choose a reward that is related to physical activity. How about workout clothing or new athletic shoes? Or reward yourself with a trip to the movies or tickets to your favorite play or sporting event.
Develop long-term vision
Keep in mind that health professionals recommend 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (e.g., gardening or walking) a day at least five days a week. This can be your long-term goal, but for now just keep building on your successes month by month.