How to Increase Exercise (in real life)
“You need to exercise more,” there are likely the words you hear too often from your Doctor or healthcare provider. You may even had initial success the first few weeks but then came the birthday party, the overtime at work, and that all-inclusive vacation. In the a few months during your follow-up appointment, you’re reminded of the same lecture with renewed faith and the cycle continues.
Life happens, exercise is easy in our minds but hard in real life.
The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise for all diabetic patients to improve blood sugar metabolism.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein
So rather than repeating the same cycle of feeling shameful and motivated, how can we break free and truly exercise?
In this guide, I will discuss 5 tips to help you truly increase your exercise and we will make it fun. Before we begin on these tips, I want us to change our focus – rather than seeing exercise as a physical activity, I invite you to think of exercise as a habit, same idea as brushing your teeth or making your bed. Fundamentally, exercise starts with our internal motivation and being disciplined. Rather than thinking of increasing your exercise, start by thinking about how can you build better habits for exercise.
1. Set Realistic Goals
Many will tackle the 150 minutes of exercise per week like it is an all-or-nothing initiative – too much and too unrealistic. If you are a person where the last time you were remotely active was during your high school glory days, you need to be realistic and going from 0 to 150 minutes is setting up for failure. If you have a busy work-family schedule and really cannot afford hours of exercise, set a goal where you can achieve. Your goals need to be realistic but more importantly, sustainable. No shame in setting small bite-sized goals as long as these goals are reasonable within your reach; I call these fingertip goals, where they are not within your palms yet but close enough where your fingertips can graze it.
2. Progress is Better Than a Perfect Plan
Too many people fall into the trap of thinking and planning. For example, one may invest in a gym membership, then talk to fitness coaches, plan out a diet, circle your cheat days and essentially live in your mind. Progress is better than a perfect plan and in all likelihood, your plan is not going to be perfect. You may get the exercise-high initially but as you become more active, excuses will start creeping in. More important than strategy is action and taking the small little steps.
You become who you are surrounded by. So surround yourself with knowledgeable and active people. It is normal to feel intimidated when you are just starting out but many people are very willing to help you. The social motivation can help you stay discipline, especially when your own internal motivation is weak. Misery likes company.
4. Talk Test
What is an appropriate level of exercise? The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed a curriculum to implement lifestyle interventions for diabetics and prediabetics. The CDC recommends a reasonable level of activity must pass the Talk Test – your exercise needs to be strenuous enough where you cannot sing through it but you can still talk.
5. Embrace Failure
Setbacks will happen. Cheat days (or weeks) will happen. There will be legitimate reasons where you need to skip your exercise for the day. Do not feel an excessive and debilitating amount of guilt. Normalize failure and move forward. We will all fail at our goals at one point or another. Realize failure is a lesson and do not be self-label yourself as a failure. Seek honest truths from your spouse or close friends to help you see beyond your failures; there is no sugar-coating with failure but understand it is normal to fail, so embrace it.
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