Something’s better than nothing – Staying active in the face of excuses

Health coaches have to exercise too!

We are lucky to live in a community that has excellent bike paths and we frequently bike around town instead of taking the car. Two reasons- we get some extra exercise and we help the environment by reducing our carbon emissions. But we also get fresh air, sunshine, the joy of watching nature roll past, and a lot of fun memories spending active time together.

Health coaches wear bike helmets to stay safe. Can't have health or wellness without safety first!
Health coaches wear bike helmets to stay safe. Can’t have health or wellness without safety first!

Yesterday morning was REALLY cold…BRRR! It’s December and winter is just about to fully set it. As much as possible my kids and I typically bike to and from school each day. However, we all were not feeling it when the frost was thick, our breath hung in the air, and our fingertips were numb. So, we adapted and tried to make the best out of the weather we were given. We packed the bikes up on the car in the morning and drove them to school. Then, I biked over in the afternoon when school was over and we all biked home together. It was still a cool, brisk, afternoon but it was sunny and warmed up enough to make the bike enjoyable. Having an open mind and an intentional priority to stay active allowed us to still get some exercise despite challenging weather. In the end we enjoyed a 1-mile, 12 minute bike ride instead of our normal 2-mile, 24 minute round trip day of biking. Something’s better than nothing.

Exercise can be as simple as a bike or walk together. Being together makes fitness fun!
Exercise can be as simple as a bike or walk together. Being together makes fitness fun!

A health coach explains some health benefits of staying active

You probably won’t be surprised when I share that staying physically active is good for your health. Not the first time you’ve heard that right? I didn’t think so. Hang with me though I’ve still got something valuable to share.

Most of us already know that regularly moving our bodies helps you keep a healthy weight, increases strength, improves flexibility, and prevents injuries. You’ve also likely heard that it’s good for your heart and your minds. Getting 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity exercise (like a brisk walk) 5 or more times a week decreases your chances of having a heart attack or a stroke. It also helps to protect your mind from depression, anxiety, or even dementia as you age. Pretty cool.

Exercise is also a GREAT way to reduce stress. If you’re having an absolutely, crummy, frustrating, stretched-too-thin kind of day getting active is just what your doctor (and your body) orders! Physical activity lets you literally burn through those stress hormones in your blood that are making you feel all…well stressed out! High levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, not only make you feel stressed they trigger other changes in your body (increased inflammation, insulin resistance, weight gain) that can increase your risk for serious disease. Another win for exercise.

When the exercise excuses set in

So we all agree then. Exercise is good for us! Hooray! Let’s exercise every day. Yes, we agree Heather, but….

I’m too busy today.
The weather isn’t nice enough to walk today.
I can’t afford a gym membership right now.
I don’t have anyone to exercise with me.
I have to take care of someone else today.
I can’t because my X,Y,Z health problem is too bad.
I’m too tired after I get home from work.
I could never get up that early in the morning.
I tried before and couldn’t stick with it so why bother.
Etc, etc, etc

Yes, sometimes our lives don’t cooperate. Our good intentions to exercise fall short. Or, we just don’t follow through on our intentions or take action to prioritize staying active in our daily life. Even when we have the best intentions our bodies may not cooperate. Being sick or having an injury can throw our exercise routine for a loop and knock us off course for weeks or months. How many times though is it really just excuses that knock you off course?

This has been my experience many times before. I’ll admit that I have absolutely been lured by excuses and put exercise off. I never felt good afterward. My body and my mind missed the good vibes and stress relief that exercise gives. How did I overcome my personal obstacles to make exercise a priority? First, mindset. I choose to commit to physical activity as a priority for my health and believe in my own ability to make it happen. It starts with your choice and belief. Second, just keep trying. Yep- keep trying and experimenting with different exercises or activities that work for your lifestyle. Here’s the kicker. What works for you will likely change over time. It may not be as straightforward as finding that one thing and doing it forever. Don’t quit trying. Stay open-minded, flexible, and curious to learn about what your body needs over time. I’m confident you will find your thing and discover new things that work for you as long as you choose to keep on trying.

Here’s some really good news that you may not know. You don’t have to do all 30 minutes of your exercise at one time to get the health benefits. NOPE- you don’t. Studies have shown that even doing aa little as 10 minutes 3 times per day can be just as effective as 30 minutes at one time. Opens up some possibilities for you, doesn’t it? More good news. People who exercise regularly live longer (2 years longer on average) even IF they don’t lose any weight by exercising. More incentive to break down your barriers, banish excuses, and make exercise a daily priority.

Here are a few ideas on how you can silence your excuses about exercising:

Too Busy…
Break it up into short pieces. Wake up and do 10 minutes of something, take a 10-minute walk at lunch, and walk the dog for 10 minutes after dinner.
Take a close look at what’s keeping you busy an eliminate some distractions to make room for your exercise priority.
Walk on a home treadmill while you watch your favorite TV show. When was the last time you got too busy for your ‘This is Us’ fix?

Bad weather…
Do some simple jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-up, or knee bends at home inside.
Get some gear that makes being out in the weather more comfortable.
Take an indoor walk at your local shopping mall or big retailer. (Maybe, leave your wallet at home – just to be safe)

Can’t afford it…
Hello YouTube! There are so many wonderful, fun, and free fitness videos online. Added benefits are that you can do these in the comfort of your own home so this helps with the weather excuses as well. FitnessBlender.com, Blogilates.com, and TheFitnessMarshall YouTube channel are just three examples of what is out there. There are also fantastic online resources you can pay for Like BeachBody.com or MyYogaWorks.com. These sites often offer discounts or specials themselves or through promotion websites like Groupon. Oh and don’t forget the free-est of the free exercise of all. Walking. You don’t need any special equipment, skill, or talent. Just move those feet and enjoy. (I personally enjoy some music on a good walk. For some musical inspiration try this adive from Passion Pit and “Take a Walk”)

No-one will exercise with me…
Start telling people you’re looking for a fitness partner, join a local gym or Meetup.com hiking group and make new fitness friends. Telling friends or family what you want and what you are doing is also a great way to build some motivation for yourself to stay accountable.

I have to take care of my kids/parent/pet…
Go to the park with your kids for a game of frisbee or kickball. Chasing kids is good exercise!
Get your parent or pet involved and take a walk together. Loved ones need exercise too. You’ll also be better able to care for others when you take good care of yourself.

Health problems prevent me from exercising…
Definitely, talk with your doctor or health professional. While some health conditions truly limit 100% of your exercise and activity this is not common. If they do it is usually for a short time. If you’ve just had surgery or are recovering from a major injury you should listen to the advice of your care team so that you can heal properly and prevent further health problems. But, if you have a chronic health issue you can adapt and find your new activity that will work for you. For example, bad joints – try swimming or water aerobics. You CAN and WILL find what works for you if you stay open-minded and keep trying. Get help and advice when you need it or feel stuck and confused. A health coach is a great resource to help you move past stuck and reach your goals.

Too tired after work…
Experiment with getting up earlier or try exercising at a different time of day. You might be thinking..NO WAY..I could never do that! I promise you that you will be surprised by what you learn about yourself when you try this experiment (pinky swear). Give your experiment a fair time to test things out. Four weeks would be best, 2 weeks is pretty good, and at least 1 week at minimum. You’ll be amazed at what you actually are capable of and how you might actually like it!

I’ve tried before and failed. Why bother?
Take a deep breath. Remember your priorities. Keep trying. If you need it, get support. Work with a health coach to help you get clear about your health vision, find your motivation, and create an action plan so you will be successful this time. A health coach will help you achieve success by making sure you stay true to your goals and don’t bite off more than you can chew. They will hold you accountable and help you keep going when things feel tough. Schedule a complimentary 15-minute call with me today. Let’s talk about what you want most for your health and how working with a health coach will help you get it.

I hope that reading this fills you with inspiration and motivation to take action. You can make exercise a successful life-long healthy habit when you choose to do so. BELIEVE in your power to BE WELL. You’ve got this!

With Hope,

Heather Martin is a health coach, diabetes educator. and doctor of pharmacy who believes in your capacity to live well.

Health and wellness coaching for your unique lifestyle.

Leave a comment below and let me know:
How do you stay active to stay healthy?

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