Exercise: getting fit, staying motivated




Some of my clients can find it a challenge getting to the gym when the sun starts rising later in the morning. It’s even tougher when they know it still won’t be up by the time they leave. Yet somehow it doesn’t stop most of them. Why? I think it’s because of the great buzz and mood boost they score from the session. By the time they leave they’re feeling so good it doesn’t matter so much about the light, or the weather. And this is the truly remarkable thing about exercise; if the benefits could be put in a pill, there isn’t a person who wouldn’t buy them. But for anyone struggling with the idea of embarking on an exercise regime as we head into the cold, dark months, consider the facts.

Exercise is beneficial for:
  • Energy
  • Mood
  • Sex life
  • Blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • It even helps you sleep, as well as waken you up

Yet time spent sitting has increased over the last decade, with it estimated some 31% of people worldwide are not meeting even the relatively low recommended levels of physical activity guidelines. Factors such as technology and even transport have contributed to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, but such trends are also linked to diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. So, it’s no surprise that a study published online in JAMA Internal Medicine has associated higher levels of activity in leisure time with lowering risks in contracting 13 out of 26 types of cancer, while according to Florida Atlantic University, regular physical activity is the closest we have to a “magic bullet” to combat the worldwide obesity epidemic and cardiovascular disease.

Start moving today

If you are part of the 31%, it’s time for action. Start small. Try going for a brisk walk. Or if you are feeling more adventurous, consider signing up to a gym. Try weight training – the health benefits are numerous, from improving muscle mass and strength, decreasing risk of fraility, osteoporosis and sarcopenia to even delaying mortality.

Exercise; maintaining motivation

For the uninitiated there is no question that it’s tougher to start an exercise regime coming into winter than in the spring. It’s easy to be tempted to use the darker mornings and evenings as an excuse to snuggle down in bed, or just head for home, jettisoning good intentions. But the rewards – both short term and longer term – are more than worth it.

And while getting up in the dark can be hard, there are ways to make it easier. Some people use clocks with lights that come up slow, mimicking dawn breaking and helping their circadian rhythms.  I’m more old school, jolting myself out of bed without trying to think about it too much, because my motivation easily overcomes my reluctance to give up the cosy bedcovers.

Setting yourself up for exercise success
  1. You know what you want to achieve, the core motivation for why you train or want to train. Maybe it’s to increase mobility, or to help you lose a few pounds, to get healthier, to build muscle or achieve that six pack. Whatever the reason, this must become your prime motivational driver.
  2. Whatever the challenge, because it’s a challenge, this takes character. So, a big part of the battle of staying motivated will include self-assessment. The tried and tested method to achieve this is self-monitoring. There are numerous devices available to track exercise, but to deal with the specific problem of just getting out of bed I recommend a very simple solution:
    • Buy a calendar
    • Place it on a table or wall furthest from your bed
    • Get up each morning to put a big red X in the box to mark another training day

I also recommend starting ASAP – there is no time like the present once you have committed to making a start. What’s more, as each red X becomes a link in a chain, the longer that chain becomes the more loathe you will be to risk breaking it, even in the really dark and cold days of December and January, when we can all be challenged!

Simply by developing a mechanism to help you conquer the hurdle of getting out of bed you will start to form the habit of waking up when it is dark. Once this routine is built in, everything becomes that much easier, while helping you build further mental strength and toughness to overcome other obstacles.

No pill can deliver the results exercise provides, but if you can find it within you to make exercise just routine, the benefits can be yours.

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Alex is a registered Master Trainer and Nutritional Advisor with Level 4 qualifications in obesity and diabetes. He is also a strength specialist and a Ni Dan in Shotokan Karate.

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