For those of us “regular” people, making fitness a regular part of our lives, it is a conscious choice that we make. Fortunately, as human beings, we are given the gift of “choice”. As a personal trainer, I have worked with many people who struggle to incorporate fitness into their routine, and on the flip side, have seen many people make the choice to become active and fit. Fitness is a relative term, not all are out there running marathons, but they are active, exercise regularly, and taking charge of their health.
Why choose fitness?
Why on earth would you want to take the time to go to the gym, go for a run, do your stretches, or take that yoga class, anyway? Aside from all we have read about the health benefits of exercising, what other reasons could there be? Isn’t it much easier to come home after work and relax after a hard day vs. head to your workout? I know, you have much more important things to do than to go to the gym or go for a bike ride, like check your emails, or browse the internet, or catch up on TV.
Besides the long list of health benefits from exercise, I can think of several reasons to incorporate fitness into your daily life. At the top of my list are: weight control, stress release, improving self-esteem, and creating a healthy habit. Many of these are intertwined, but let’s take a closer look at each one.
How does fitness affect weight control?
Exercise alone will not control your weight, but it can sure make a huge difference. When you exercise, you burn calories, no doubt about it. There are many different weight loss exercise programs out there, but the common ingredient is that you have to do the work! Many programs will have you doing shorter workouts at a higher intensity than longer workouts, but beware that you have to have a fitness base first before jumping into high intensity interval type training.
What does all of this mean for weight loss?
Copyright: wckiw / 123RF Stock Photo
How hard you exercise depends on several factors including your fitness level, how much time you have, and how much you enjoy doing it. You will need to figure out what works best for you. Yes, you could sleep all day and burn mostly fat for fuel, but your body will burn more overall calories and ultimately burn more fat, if you work out at a higher intensity (i.e. where you are not at an easy conversational intensity). Up the intensity, and you will also improve your fat/calorie burning after your exercise session.
Bottom line is that you need to exercise, burn more calories than you take in, and aim for at least some of your weekly workouts to be higher intensity exercise sessions where you breathe hard and put on a good sweat. If you are just starting out, I advise you to find a personal trainer or exercise class instructor who can guide you safely into higher intensity workouts.
Need to blow off a little steam? Try taking an hour fitness class or going for a half-hour brisk walk or run and see how you feel. Simply standing up from your computer and stretching while breathing in and out through your nose for a few deep slow breaths can be a huge stress release. For me, swimming laps at the pool totally changes my mindset and decreases my stress levels. Others may need to go hit the punching bag or do an intense interval workout. Still others can find stress release by doing yoga, or going for a walk outdoors. If you don’t like to be outdoors, have some indoor options and have outdoor options if you cannot stand to be indoors!
Simply having some options in your back pocket to help relieve stress is a great approach to fitness.
Will fitness improve your self-esteem?
As human beings, we naturally care about how we feel. We have the power to improve our self-esteem, productivity, and mood. Psychological benefits from embracing fitness are far-reaching. First of all, when fitness is new to someone, they might go through some “growing pains” such as feeling a few minor aches, feeling awkward and uncomfortable in their own bodies, comparing themselves to others at the gym who are fitter, etc. It might be hard to stick to the program.
Exercising produces endorphins, which are “feel-good” hormones that can have a profound effect on self-esteem. Will you feel the endorphin rush from slowly stretching and taking an easy walk with the dog? Probably not, because it usually takes more than that. You need to get our body moving, circulation going, heart pumping, and lungs expanding!
When you feel good about what you are doing, especially if it is doing something good for your body, you are more likely to continue that behavior and seek out those feelings in a healthy way. I have worked with many people over the years who come to me to help them get started exercising, losing weight, and get healthier. Some have definitely not been able to get over their hurdles, while others have stuck it out and gotten fit, lost weight, and drastically improved their self-esteem. Which path would you choose?
Improved self-esteem is one of the biggest psychological benefit from fitness, but others include improving the ability to focus, improving mood, and believe it or not, often times, having fun!
Why is it important to have healthy habits?
How often do you get together with family or friends and find yourself staring at unhealthy choices of snacks, meals, and desserts? Chances are that if you have exercised that day, you feel good about your body, and are motivated to make the healthiest choices available to you. Does that sound a little too idealistic?
If you are in the habit of exercising and eating healthy, and feeling good about your body, then you are more likely to treat it in a healthy way. This doesn’t mean that you never eat sweets or salty snacks, but you will be less likely to choose them on a regular basis for sure, and most likely will be able to not overdo it when you do.
Having healthy habits will also help you stick with your fitness lifestyle for years to come.
How do you make a choice, commitment, change?
So you agree that you want to choose fitness after all. Great choice! How do you get started? Fitness is a commitment, right? You feel like your plate is already full, do you need one more commitment right now? The short answer is “Yes”.
What prevents you from choosing fitness?
Common barriers when it comes to choosing fitness include time, money, procrastination, negative self-talk, and fear of failure. Let’s take a brief look at each of these.
Time: The #1 reason for not exercising or eating healthy foods is lack of time. Any efficiency expert would tell you to schedule exercise into your daily and/or weekly calendar. Treat it just like any other appointment.
For preparing healthy meals and snacks, set aside some time at the beginning of the week to slice those veggies, shop for your meals, pack healthy snacks in your workout bag, purse, brief case, office desk, etc., thus avoiding trips through the drive-through or to the vending machine.
Money: The expense of joining a gym, hiring a trainer, buying healthy food is a close tie for first place when it comes to excuses. Yes, these things cost money, but many of you have a choice as to what to spend your money on. Understandably, many others don’t. If you can budget a gym membership or personal trainer, that is great. Group exercise classes can be a less expensive option.
There is no shortage of places to take yoga, kick-boxing, circuit classes, and more.
I am often surprised by how easy it is to spend money on unnecessary things such as coffee, sports drinks, pop, alcohol, and when added up, this can be significant. Eating healthy does cost money, especially if you eat organic foods, but again, it is a choice.
Negative Self-Talk: Does it really serve you any purpose to tell yourself that you are not going to succeed at this, or that you are too clumsy to do Zumba, or too stiff to do yoga? Negative self-talk can take on a lot more severe voices than these examples, but, let’s face it, this is a form of self-sabotage. If you really want to succeed at choosing fitness, then, you need to do some serious attitude adjusting if this is one of your major hurdles.
Find affirmations, subscribe to daily motivational quotes, or even work with a coach to challenge those deeper emotions that are at the root of these feelings, generally feelings of inadequacy. A favorite motivational quote of mine is:
When faced with two equally tough choices, most people choose the third choice: to not choose. ―Jarod Kintz.
Think about the freedom that overcoming this hurdle brings. How much more you can enjoy your life when you are not running these negative tapes in your head that prevent you from moving forward? Choose to choose!
Fear of Failure: This topic warrants a whole article by itself, but when it comes to fitness, you have to ask yourself, what have you got to lose, if you try? Many people see fitness as black and white, versus a continuum with stops and starts, adjustments and modifications, and ongoing. Embrace the changes that your body is going through, and realize that there is no failure when it comes to your health accept in not taking action.
In summary, you really cannot afford to not choose fitness. By choosing to be fit, you are also choosing to give your body the best opportunities to be healthy, both mentally and physically.
And you, are you choosing fitness? Tell us about the challenges you have been facing for choosing fitness.
If you like this post, please share it with your friends on social media.
By Sue Bream yoursimplehealthylife.com