Motivation to exercise may be in short supply as 2021 gets underway. Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, getting back into shape was the most common New Year’s resolution.
In 2021, the fitness commitment takes on more importance as many face a new year with extra weight that is commonly referred to as the “Quarantine 15.” That’s a reference to the minimum of 15 pounds put on since being stuck at home, eating more, sitting for longer periods, and putting off regular exercise.
The good news: There are well-proven motivating factors that can help you stay on track.
Here are the top exercise motivators:
Not enough time is usually the top excuse for not exercising. So the biggest motivator is to keep things as simple and convenient as possible. If you don’t have a long period of time in the day available, break up your exercise routines. All it takes is a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes daily of moderate-to-intense activity to more than meet minimal requirements for physical activity set by the American Heart Association (AHA). For strength-training, you don’t need to go to the gym. A few free weights at home and 20 minutes of working out at home, three times a week can help with bone and muscle health as you get older.
“Our credo is ‘never slow down,’ even for people in their 70s and 80s,” said Mark Caruso, M.D., an internal medicine physician with Baptist Health Primary Care. “We are a huge proponent of exercise for people of all ages. As you get older, cross training (aerobics and weights) benefits bone health and helps prevent osteoporosis.”
If you are not feeling motivated enough to exercise, then find a friend, family member or coworker who can inspire you to get moving or hit the gym. Of course, your workout buddy should be somebody who exercises regularly and is motivated on most days. Having a friend or colleague for getting started on regular jogs, brisk walks or other activities is almost always a successful strategy. “I know people who start exercising and after a while they say, ‘Wow, I never expected my pain to go away and feel this energized,” says Fabiola Yasky, a fitness instructor for Community Health at Baptist Health South Florida. “Many people don’t understand that exercise can help young people and older people recover from injuries and feel reinvigorated.”
Digital Tracking Devices
Those wearable digital devices are surging in popularity. They help you track your progress, such as distance covered by a runner/jogger and your target heart rate during intense workouts. “Using a personal fitness tracking device will make you more mindful of your activity level,” says Georgia Saborio, an exercise physiologist and supervisor for Employee Fitness at Baptist Health South Florida. Some are “clip-on style” and some are small enough to tuck into your pocket. “They often work together with smartphone apps and websites to help you view your activity, set health goals, share your achievements with friends, and for most people, provide extra motivation to get off the couch,” Ms. Saborio says.
Making It Fun and Positive
If you lack the get-up-and-go attitude, then you may need to liven up your routine. Boredom is a common reason for not sticking with a program. Beneficial physical activity doesn’t have to be something boring. Follow your favorite hobbies and mix things up on occasion. And it’s fine to watch a favorite TV show or listen to music while riding a stationary bike or walking/running on a treadmill at home or the gym. You can diversify your routine by cycling outdoors on some days, instead of brisk walking or jogging.
You can also try some positive thinking as well. One study found that participants who had a positive inner dialog — upbeat self-talk — outperformed others in a cycling test. “Researchers report that no matter which positive-phrase the volunteers chose, they stayed motivated longer than the people who didn’t choose any form of positive self talk,” Ms. Saborio said.
Setting Specific Goals
No important project at work is launched without a written or detailed strategy or game plan. The same should apply to an exercise program, especially for those in most need of physical activity, such as individuals who are obese or overweight or those with certain risk factors such as high blood pressure, undesirable cholesterol levels or diabetes.
The biggest mistake that individuals make is that they do not have a specific plan with detailed goals. Those who have dropped out of exercise programs often don’t have the proper guidance, motivation or goals. Solutions include finding a program at a health club, getting advise from your primary care physician, finding a personal trainer through your workplace or nearby gym, or seeking out a friend who exercises regularly, as mentioned above under “workout buddy.”
“As an instructor, I get older people who have been told by a doctor that they have to exercise,” Ms. Yasky says. “I get younger people who start exercise to look better. But both groups end up surprised that they can do this, and they realize how much better they feel.”