Motivation … motivation … motivation. In a word, this is the key to starting and maintaining a successful exercise program. We all want the benefits of exercise: improved cardiovascular health, weight control, more energy and emotional well-being. But finding and staying motivated can be as difficult for many people as sinking a half-court shot in basketball or running a four-minute mile in track. Fortunately, there are some tips that can help you get started, and then help you stay on course.
In the beginning
The first step, especially if you are age 35 or older or have a medical condition, is an exam by your primary care doctor. Then, pick an activity or activities you know you will enjoy. Variety should also be a consideration.
Don’t overdo it. Initially, you might want to exercise three times a week, about 20 minutes at a time. But before you jog that first mile, or hit that first tennis ball, warm up for three to five minutes, followed by three to five minutes of stretching related to your particular exercise. A five-minute cool-down period is also recommended. Injuries, which can oftentimes be avoided with proper warm-up and stretching, are one of the reasons people give up exercise before they begin to reap the physical and mental benefits.
Slow and steady
No matter what activity you choose, for the first few weeks you should adopt a pace that allows you to talk and move comfortably while doing it. If you do overdo it and injure yourself slightly, the secret to a quick recovery is RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).
Keeping at it
Incorporate exercise into your daily life. Set an appointment with yourself for a time to exercise and then keep that appointment. You might also want to try:
- Exercising with a friend.
- Charting your progress so you can look back and use how far you’ve come as inspiration.
- Setting both short- and long-term goals.
Any day is a good day to get outside and get some healthy exercise, but if you could use a little additional motivation and inspiration, here’s your chance – April 2 is National Walking Day. Today, Americans across the country are encouraged to lace up their sneakers and take at least 30 minutes out of their day to get outside and walk.