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Planning to Exercise More Next Year?

Okay. Good idea. Now, how to make that happen?

12-19 Weeping Cherry
Walking After the Rain

The American Heart Association recommends more exercise than most people get.

For overall cardiovascular health:

  • At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150, for example, walking 3 miles/hour, general gardening, or bicycling slower than 10 miles/hour
  • At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days/week for a total of 75 minutes, for example, jogging, jumping rope, or heavy gardening
  • A combination of the above

So, let’s say that you want to follow these (or similar) guidelines. Here are a few tips to steer you away from being one of those people who make vague New Year’s resolutions and then abandon them.

Create a Program for Yourself

  • Set Specific Goals. I’m going to walk XX miles a month, go to the gym X times a week, go line dancing once a month. Whatever it is. Set up something that you can do consistently, but leave room for flexibility in case of intense times at work, travel, or family commitments.
  • Start Small. Don’t go from nothing to a half marathon all at once. Don’t get so sore from working out at the gym that you can’t get off the couch the next day. That’s a great way to put you off your whole program. Think: Do this gradually.
  • Schedule time on your calendar. Pick a time that’s realistic for you. If possible, set regular times to exercise each week. Keep these appointments with yourself. If you can’t keep one, reschedule.
  • Divide Up the Time. If exercising for 30 minutes at one time seems impossible, break up your exercise into 10- or 15-minute segments. With 7 days in a week, you can take two short walks a day and still make your 150-minute total.
  • Remove Barriers. Assemble the right clothes. Lay them out the night before if you plan to work out in the morning. If you don’t know how to do the exercise you’ve chosen, find out how. If you have exercised for a long time or are otherwise unsure of your current health status, go to the doctor. Find out if you should observe any limitations for your health. Also find out if that knee that’s bothering you will likely be damaged or instead will benefit from the exercise program you’ve created.
  • Track Your Progress. Use a calendar, a spreadsheet, Calorie King, Nike+, your fancy body tracker, or some other method to add up how you’re doing. Review at least weekly.
  • Reward Yourself. Give yourself a break or a treat when you reach your weekly or monthly goals.

Find Ways to Love It

  • Exercise with a Friend. Pick something you both like (or at least do not hate). Set a time (a regular time, if you can). Enjoy each other’s company while you add up the minutes.
  • Hire a Trainer. A wise man once told me that he really had no desire to exercise, but he knew it was good for him. So he took advantage of something he was good at, he said, which was to show up for appointments on time. His appointments got him to the gym. That’s all he needed. Besides that, your trainer can help you to…
    • Get the most out of your workout. Many people at the gym don’t get the benefits they’re looking for because they don’t realize their form is bad.
    • Avoid injury. In addition to not working the intended muscles, bad form can lead to injury.
    • Progress steadily. It’s way too easy to get comfortable in an exercise routine instead of pushing yourself to the next level.
    • Enjoy yourself. Your trainer is a built-in person to chat with, which can make the time go faster.
  • Take a Class. The schedule gets you there. You learn something. You make new friends.
  • Combine Your Exercise with Something Else You Love. Walk, run, bike, or row in beautiful places. Dance to music you enjoy. Listen to audio books or your favorite podcasts while you exercise.

So, don’t be that person who resolves to exercise more next year and then fizzles out after the first week, first month, first quarter. Instead, set exercise goals that will work for you, remove obstacles in your way, and proactively seek ways to enjoy working on a healthier new you.


Post | American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults

Post | Americans Fall Short of Federal Exercise Recommendations

Chart | New Year’s Resolution Statistics

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