The first day of the year symbolizes a new start for many people – a time to clean out the failed resolutions from the previous year and a chance to go at it again. While there isn’t much difference between January 1 and any other day of the year when it comes to changing something in your life that needs changing, many people like the idea of starting on the first day of a new year. But if you’re one of the many procrastinators who haven’t gotten around to making their New Year’s resolutions yet, don’t worry, there is still plenty of time. You can start on any day of the year and track your progress from that point onward. If you’re like most Americans, one of your highest priorities will be getting more exercise.
Here are a few suggestions for making your exercise resolution stick.
Start Slowly. Many people decide to start exercising by joining a local gym or buying a piece of exercise equipment. They are really excited about getting in shape and their overzealousness often leads to soreness, fatigue, pain, or boredom (not to mention an additional financial cost). After a couple of months, they decide it is too much and quit. The key to sustaining regular exercise is to not be too ambitious at the start of your program — maybe 15 to 20 minutes a day for the first couple of months – so that you’re able to comfortably build the new routine into your schedule without it overcoming you.
Build Social Support into Your Exercise Routine. Do anything possible to make your exercise routine a social activity. Talk on the phone with a friend; go walking/wheeling with a local neighbor a couple of days a week; take a group exercise class. The more social contact you have during exercise, the more likely you’ll stick with it.
Keep it Simple. Don’t make exercising harder than it has to be. Keep the exercise program simple enough to do at home, outdoors, or in a gym and make sure that preparing for your workout routine doesn’t require loads of time. If it takes a great deal of time and effort to get into your gym clothes, try exercising in your street clothes, provided you don’t perspire too much (I’ll leave that one up to you!). The less convenient and portable the exercise routine is, the more likely you’re going to quit before the next month begins.
No Excuses. There are days when you’re going to wake up and feel like the world is upside-down. This sounds like a good reason for skipping the exercise routine, but is precisely the reason you should exercise that day. Stress, depression, and fatigue can all be improved upon with a few minutes of exercise. On days when you’re not feeling well, throw a Yoga tape or chair exercise video into your DVD player and get your mind to relax. It will change your brain chemistry and make you feel better.
Exercise at the Same Time of the Day. Researchers have noted that people who have a regular time of the day that they work out have a higher rate of sticking with their program. Find the time of day that works for you. For individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, later in the day might work better since there is usually more stiffness in the morning. For people with multiple sclerosis or post-polio, earlier in the day is usually better because they generally have lower rates of fatigue compared to early or mid-afternoon.
Mix It Up. If you like variety, mix up your exercise routine every other day of the week. Hit the gym on weekends when you are not frantically trying to get ready for work or get the family out the door. During the week, wake up an extra half-hour early and do some stretching and strengthening exercises, or do 15 minutes before work and another 15 minutes at lunch or after work to get in your 30 minutes of regular physical activity.
Have a Visual Monitor to Record Your Daily Progress. Buy yourself an inexpensive pedometer that can help you record the number of steps you get on a daily basis. If you use your upper arms rather than legs to exercise, you can attach the pedometer to an armband and record your upper-body movements. The nice thing about pedometers is that they give you an objective way to measure your exercise routine. If you need a few extra steps at the end of the day to meet your quota, you can dance around the living room or walk/wheel around your apartment or house while brushing your teeth!
Use a Calendar to Keep Track of Your Progress. Place a calendar on your refrigerator door and mark an ‘X’ in the box or record the number of steps that you take each day. Don’t worry about missing a few days here and there — we all do. Set a monthly goal that you’ll exercise 20 out of 30 days a month, and if you go higher, that’s great, but at least you won’t set yourself up for failure by claiming that you are going to exercise every day. If you only exercise 15 out of 31 days in January, make up the additional 5 days in February and March. Your goal is to achieve a total number of days by the end of the year. But remember: If you take too many days off in January and February, you’ll have to exercise more during the remaining months of the year.
To exercise more is a great resolution. It can help you lose weight, build muscle, make daily tasks easier to perform and improve overall health. Even more important is that it will prevent injuries and degeneration of normal musculoskelatal function. Stick to your new year’s resolution and reduce the chances that you’ll end up in need of rehabilitation or give call us at 212-967-5337 if you need help getting back on track to an improved happy and healthy lifestyle.