Okay. So you made a New Year’s resolution to start exercising. You may even have joined a gym. But you’re already finding excuses why you can’t go today – no time, too tired, just don’t feel like it. Only 17.1 percent of women ages 25 to 44 get enough physical activity, according to Women’s Health USA 2011 published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Adequate physical activity is defined as 2.5 hours per week of moderate-intensity activity or 1.25 hours per week of vigorous-intensity activity, or an equivalent combination of both, plus muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days per week. Essentially, the time it takes to watch one half-hour sitcom a day is all that is needed to promote physical well-being.
Unfortunately, studies show nearly half of all adults who do start an exercise program quit within the first three to six months.
Here are some tips experts say can help you stay motivated and stick to your plan:
Choose a fun activity. Experts agree that if the activity isn’t something you enjoy, you won’t stick to it. Hate going to the gym? Try walking, jogging, bike riding. Play a sport like tennis or find a dance class you enjoy.
Set a schedule. It’s easy to let things go when you don’t set aside a specific time for exercising. Create a routine – an early morning jog before your coffee, a brisk walk at lunchtime, an after-work cardio class – and your workout can become a regular part of your day like the time you take to eat or shower.
Mix it up. Doing the same thing every day can be boring. Plan your schedule so that you vary physical activities during the week. Include cardio activities, stretching for flexibility and strength training.
Do it with a friend. Have a friend who wants to exercise, too? Plan a regular physical activity together. Each can keep the other motivated and add an extra layer of fun.
Set small, achievable goals. Having a goal helps to motivate us. Whether it’s to lose 20 lbs. before donning your swimsuit or to whittle your waistline by a few inches or lower your cholesterol, a goal provides a tangible reason to keep going. But if the goal is too daunting, you might be easily discouraged. If you need to lose 40 lbs., start with a goal of losing 10 lbs. and then another 10 lbs. once you’ve reached the first goal.
Start slowly. Trying to do too much at the beginning if you haven’t exercised in some time can cause soreness or injury. Start slowly and build your strength and endurance.
Be realistic. It takes time to see results, but results will come if you stick with it. If you’re dieting along with exercising, expect to lose about 1 or 2 lbs. a week. The Biggest Loser notwithstanding, people don’t ordinarily lose 100 lbs. in two months.
Log your progress. Keeping a log of your activities, weight and measurements can be motivating as you see your goals coming to fruition. Success breeds success.
Stay positive. Don’t be a naysayer. Negativity can be self-fulfilling. If you say you can’t do it, you won’t.
Don’t beat yourself up. If you have days when you fall off the wagon either on your diet or exercise program, don’t use it as an excuse to quit altogether. Think about how good you feel when you are succeeding and get back on your program.
Remember, before starting any exercise program, check with your health care provider first.