This time of year, getting enough exercise can seem next to impossible. The solution starts by knowing what it means to ‘get enough exercise’. Here are some tips on how to get enough exercise in the busy seasons of your life.
Typical tips would be to multitask like march in place while you are on the phone or do exercises while sitting at your desk or watching TV. Although they seem logical, this is where we lose motivation and the ability to get enough of what we truly need from exercise when we are busy.
First, lets get clear about what is exercise. Physical activity is any movement. But the word exercise literally means to practice. Exercise is when you move specifically for the purpose of taking care of your body, practicing a skill or ability you want more of now and in the future. Like any quality time spent practicing, movement goes from being just another task to exercise when it has the following qualities:
Consistent: practicing something for five minutes a day will be more effective than just during the times of year you have time to practice. Your body is a use it to keep it system, which means the movements you do regularly you get to keep. It is easier to make it part of your daily life when you see it as a way to feel better. That brings us to the next two qualities.
Focus: When practice of any skill is done with full focus, it is more time efficient. If you multi tasked learning a new skill by doing it while watching TV, you just would not get as much out of the time you invest in it. When you move with full focus on your body for the purpose of taking care of yourself, you not only improve the quality of your exercise time, but you also ramp up the benefits by practicing mindfulness while you move. Focusing on the present moment calms the nervous system. So does movement. The two together are just what we need when we are busy and stressed. Since stress deteriorates motivation, exercising to reduce stress is the way to stay motivated.
Just right level: If you practiced a skill at a level higher than your abilities, you would get frustrated and probably lose interest. That just right level of challenge is key for exercise too. Your body and brain both benefit from exercising at a level that feels like a comfortable and motivating challenge. Listening to your body allows you to find the just right level without wasting time doing more than your body needs that day, causing you move less because you are in pain the next day. More is not always better. When it comes to exercise, constantly trying to do more usually leads to lower motivation long term.
Those steps you might be racking up at the mall doing holiday shopping or shoveling your driveway ‘count’ for physical activity. However, shopping or shoveling can be stress producing instead of leaving you feeling or functioning better because they are often missing the three elements that turn physical activity into exercise.
Exercise for being healthy and well is not about keeping score, its about feeling better and functioning better, now and later. Think of exercise as a time to practice improving the function of your body and calming your mind. Instated of putting exercise on hold when you are busy, adapt how much you do so you can stay consistent while using exercise as a ‘time out’ to de-stress. This way you are more likely to keep moving and stay well through all the seasons of your life,
Keep Moving, Be Well