Does your New Year’s resolution involve being more physically active in the coming year?
And did you have exactly the same resolution the year before? Maybe the year before that?
“I live across the street from an elementary school, and starting each Jan. 2 I see lots of people out walking there. Within a week, that number slowly decreases,” said Irene Lopez, a registered nurse and manager of the Fitness Center at University Health System’s Texas Diabetes Institute. “Same thing at the gym. It’s very busy in January, February. Then things kind of creep up and get in the way.”
The science is clear: Sitting around all day is bad for our bodies — and our minds. Almost daily a new study appears confirming that physical activity is the closest thing we have to a miracle drug, good for just about everything. And yet, most of us don’t get enough.
Ms. Lopez said the key to staying active is by making it a daily habit.
“Just as we wake up and brush our teeth, eat our breakfast, exercise should be a habit — something that we do daily.”
Our overbooked schedules can make finding time difficult, but it’s important to pencil it in the way you would a meeting or a doctor’s visit.
“Time constraints rank right up there with the reasons why people stop — or don’t start in the first place,” Ms. Lopez said. “Make an appointment with yourself. Let your family know, I need 30 minutes this afternoon, and I’m going to stay after work and use the gym.”
Finding an activity you enjoy — walking, running, swimming, biking — can also help you stick to a routine. Another factor has to do with your personality, Ms. Lopez said.
Are you a loner or a social butterfly?
“Some people may find they’re better suited to solo activities. They don’t like being in a group and would prefer running or walking by themselves. Others may thrive in an environment where they’re competitive. And even if they’re in a group exercise class, they want to do something a little better than the next person.”
Still, activities involving a buddy can sustain your fitness goals.
“One way to stick with a program is to become accountable to someone — a friend, a partner, a family member,” Ms. Lopez said. “But it has to be the right person. When I was playing soccer, a friend and I would decide, OK, on Saturday we’re going to work out. Then, neither one of us would show up and we’d never talk about it later. But I had another friend that I’d meet up with to run, and for whatever reason, she and I were very accountable to making sure we met and ran that day.”
Being active doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money on a gym membership. Programs like the city’s Fitness in the Park program sponsors activities of all kinds, usually at little or no cost.
And finally, don’t give up if you suffer a setback, she said.
“Another thing people do is, they’ll start a program and then fall off the wagon. They have that soda or skip a session, and it’s like — well, forget it. I’m done. It doesn’t have to be that way. You just stumbled. Just start again and keep going instead of quitting because of one lapse.”
Need some ideas for beginning a fitness program? Here are a few places to get you started:
Photo courtesy skeeze, Pixabay