This article talks about some of the common issues that prevent some people from being active, and offers simple, practical suggestions to get you moving more often!
Step One: Answering the “Why” Question
Different people have different reasons for not being physically active. It helps to first think about some of the things that may be preventing you from taking the “first step” towards more physical activity.
Here are some common reasons why people often do not like to exercise:
Feeling intimidated, or worried about being embarrassed.
Perhaps you are hesitant to try going to a local gym or an exercise class. Maybe you aren’t sure what you should be doing when in the gym. Or, maybe you are worried you will do the exercises wrong or look silly in a class setting.
Some tips that may help:
- Take a tour of the gym or facility. Get to know the layout and the staff. This will help to make sure you are comfortable before you make a commitment to a course or class.
- Register for a beginner class! By joining a group of beginners, you will be on par with others who are trying to learn the basics. As you learn more and get used to certain movements, your confidence will grow.
- Talk to instructors, coaches or staff about how to use the gym equipment or machines, and about different exercises that are right for you as a beginner.
Negative past experiences with exercise.
For many people, going to phys-ed or gym class during school-age years has been one of their few experiences with being physically active. In fact, lots of people do not remember gym class fondly.
The good news is that you own your own future! Here are some tips that may help you move beyond negative experiences of the past:
No longer are you under the direction or control of a coach or phys-ed teacher. Be your own boss!
- Choose the activities you want to do, and how and when you will do them. Remember, you’re not competing for a grade and no one is judging your performance; just try to have a little fun when you are active!
- Know that being physically active is not just about sports or running fast. In fact, there are lots of choices and options available today for people who are ready to be active.
- Choose activities you can do on your own, with others, or in a class; the choice is yours!
Remember, physical activity is more than just exercise. To learn more, read Physical Activity Versus Exercise.
Lack of motivation.
No doubt, even the best athletes sometimes suffer from a lack of motivation! If you are usually not very motivated to be active, there are some basic steps you can take to tackle this issue!
Try one or more of these tips:
- Aim to choose activities that you know you like at least a little, or a lot! The more you like an activity, the more likely you’ll stick with it over time!
- Remind yourself how you will feel after you have been active. The fact is that being active will give you more energy, add “pep to your step” and help you sleep better! In fact, the health benefits from being more physically active are proven; the more active you are, the better you will feel.
- Aim to be physically active when you have the most energy. For some people, this means a morning run, while for others it could mean an evening walk. You’re the boss; be active at times that work best for you!
- See yourself as an “active person” or an “exerciser.” The more active you are, the better you will feel about your choice to get moving. The more times you are active per week, the more momentum you will build; plus, you’ll feel a boost in pride about your own efforts.
Other Ways to Move More
Being physically active is not just about going to a fitness centre, running long distances or lifting weights.
In fact, there are all kinds of things you can do to add walking and other physical activities to your daily routine.
Try some or all of these ideas:
Limit how often or how long you are sitting down! Aim to get up and move about more, at work and at home.
- Take public transit instead of driving. Walk to public transit locations as part of your plan. When time and weather permits, aim to walk longer distances, e.g., by walking all the way home, or getting off a few stops early and walking the rest of the way.
- When you drive to places, park further away from entrances.
- Take the stairs! Don’t rely on elevators and escalators.
- Think of household chores as a practical way to get things done and be active at the same time. Crank up some music and power through those chores. It will get your heart rate up and help you move your muscles!
- When doing yard work or outdoor chores, work at an even pace rather than overexerting. Aim to enjoy the outdoors, working with your family members and enjoying social times with neighbours and passers-by.
- For indoor and outdoor chores, aim to use manual labour and tools as much as you can, such as push mowers and snow shovels. This approach will give you a chance to get more exercise than you would by using power tools or machines all the time.
Get Creative, and Get Up and Go!
There is no limit to the number of things you can do to become more physically active; it just takes a little bit of creative thinking and a little get up and go!
Here are a few creative ideas that may help to get you moving:
- Get active with your children! Don’t “tune out” on your kids by watching television or letting them play video games all the time. Engage them in indoor and outdoor activities that are fun for everyone. For instance, go out and play in the back yard, or take everyone for a walk to the local park, or on a nearby hiking trail. Once you get moving, the fun will happen naturally!
- Take your dog for more walks! Perhaps you have a dog that only gets one or two short walks per day. Aim to walk more often or for longer distances. Slowly build up your pace and distance over time. The more you walk, the better you (and the dog) will feel!
- Make “active” dates! Plan your schedule to include set dates for different activities. For instance, make a date with your spouse or a friend for a regular evening walk. Or, meet up with a friend for a long bike ride or long walk on the weekend. Be sure to set your dates at a time that works for both of you, so you don’t miss out on your exercise by having to re-schedule.
- When you try out an exercise class or any new activity, aim to do it with a friend or two and make the activity a bit more social. Together, you can work through any hardships, share in the fun of meeting a challenge, and enjoy talking about the high and lows!
Explore your Options
Here are just ten examples of activities you might like to try.
- Dancing classes, such as Zumba
- Cross-country skiing
- Rock climbing
- Pick-up basketball
Can you think of ten other activities you have done? Or ten you have yet to try? Make a list of “maybes” that you might choose to do. The key is to try some of them out, and then settle on a few “keepers.”
Most people take part in a given activity because they simply find it fun; it just happens that they also get health benefits from doing it! So, explore your options!
According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, adults should aim to be active least 150 minutes a week. This could be 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Or, break it into shorter time periods, such as three 10-minute sessions per day.
Whatever activities you choose, it will take some energy and work on your part to stay active and keep up your motivation. Achieving your active goals is definitely harder if you are the type of person who doesn’t really like exercise or physical activity. But, the good news is that there are plenty of tips and ideas to get you started, and to keep you moving! Good luck with your physical activity plan... now it’s time to get up and go with it!