by Hannah Mullaney , SPT
Me: “What kind of exercise should I do?”
Also me: “Mmmm, it’s too complicated.”
“But I know it’s important for me.”
“Probably costs lots of money. I don’t know.”
“Just do anything, some push ups, planks, squats, jumping jacks!”
“Oh look, I’m out of time.”
These internal conversations abound when it comes to exercise. It is easy to become frustrated and overwhelmed. And the question often begins with, “what kind of exercise do I do?”
The simple answer is this: whatever you will actually do!
Strengthening the heart, building up the bones, balancing the chemicals messengers of the body and brain – a few of the direct benefits of exercise – these powerful outcomes blossom for doing things that challenge and move the body. Every person has distinct and individual interests, and effective, sustainable exercise training comes from doing something that matches someone’s interests with movement.
Guidelines start simple – move more! Take the stairs, park far away, stand on one leg while talking of the phone. But many people want to take that next step. Once people have experienced the relief of finishing a workout, the satisfaction of pushing their limits, or the sense of calm from endorphin release, they are ready for more. Officially, adults are recommended to do moderate to vigorous physical activity for 30-60 minutes, 5 days a week (HHS.gov).
At this point, the options may feel endless – gym membership, Zumba classes, rock climbing, running, biking, swimming, weight lifting, team sports league, golf….the list goes on an on. The volume of opportunities can be overwhelming. Some of these options are more expensive than others, and people need to think about their priorities and budget. Sometimes there are forms of exercise that may be easily overlooked, like roller blading, coaching a child’s soccer team, fishing (especially fishing someplace that can only be reached by hiking), a quick 10 minute circuit of squats, pushups, and planks, and dancing.
All of these things are valid forms of exercise. The trick is to pick something that is fun and interesting and puts a smile on the exerciser’s face.
“I HATE running!” Common sentiment. Solution…don’t run! Yes, it’s important to push oneself past the comfort zone, but, if it really is such a drag, maybe find something that is more interesting. Would running or biking to the movies to meet with friends make a difference? (Then, don’t eat the entire bag of popcorn.) Maybe if running doesn’t jive well, what about dancing? What about 3 v 3 basketball games on lunch break? All of these activities will still increase the heart rate and help make the body happy and healthy.
People talk about SMART goals, and someone who is motivated to move their body more can use these techniques to make their own game-plan. Here is the breakdown of moving more SMART-ly, using the example of someone who wants to swim 800 meters on an upcoming triathlon relay. For this individual, their spouse is doing running while another friend is doing the biking.
Specific – set a narrow goal. “I will go to West Side Pool.”
Measurable – set a goal with something concrete to measure. “I will go to West Side Pool for 45 minutes.”
Achievable – set at goal that can actually be reached. “I will go to West Side Pool for 45 minutes on Wednesday and Friday afternoons, when I have a shorter work day. Also, I own goggles and know a little bit about swimming, so this is a realistic goal.”
Relevant – set a goal that matters to you personally. In this example, the individual is doing swimming, so swimming is the relevant activity.
Time-based – set a goal that has a clear start and end time. “The triathlon is in 6 weeks.”
Therefore, the whole goal is would look like this. “In order to prepared for my part of the triathlon relay, I will go to West Side Pool for 45 minutes on Wednesday and Friday afternoons for the next 6 weeks in order to swim 800 meters without stopping.”
Finally, accountability takes goal-making to goal-attaining. If someone is asking us how we are doing, bugging us about going to the gym, waiting for us at the trailhead at 7am, or trying to workout 5 days a week with us, we are that much more likely to follow through with our good intentions. In the example above, perhaps the spouse can run while the swimmer does laps.
Therefore, if you are thinking about exercising more, my encouragement is to dive right in! Find something enjoyable that you actually want to do. Set a SMART goal. And, very importantly, ask someone to hold you accountable. No need to wait – let’s get moving today!