How to Build Good Habits in Exercise – The Basics
Change is about building HabitS - Exercise basics
Undeniably, New Zealanders, and the people around the world alike, have had to deal with a lot of changes over the last few months. Looking into the future, it is likely that these changes will resonate for weeks, months or even years, changing the way we operate in an unprecedented way.
Navigating the lifestyle changes from the lockdown period can be difficult and disruptive and keeping up with good habits can fall to the wayside. Restrictions in travel and access to public spaces has limited our ability to exercise. Many may even have given up on the idea of trying to exercise at home entirely, due to lack of equipment, space, time or motivation.
It is important during times like these to look after our health and well-being and to consider the role of physical activity in managing various health risks. Exercise is a mainstay in preventative management of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Physical activity is also essential for the development of the brain. Increased oxygen while exercising can boost concentration, memory and mood, helping to fight stress, anxiety and depression associated with uncertainty.
How to make exercise a Habit
Building up the habit of exercising can be difficult even at the best of times, but can seem especially daunting when your normal routine has changed dramatically. There can be a lot of different ways to build a habit; try a few of the strategies listed below first.
Start small – Choose one exercise to start off with and set aside five minutes in the day to do it. When you’re ready, add another exercise or two and expand the time you set aside to do them. Try and aim for at least 30 minutes a day, which is the recommended daily amount for adults.
Celebrate success – It can be really good to write down or mark off on a diary or calendar every time you do exercise. That way you can track how many days in a row and for how long you exercised for. Celebrate the small things as well as the big things. Celebrate if you exercise for five more minutes one day or if you exercise every day of the week for the first time. Giving yourself this positive reinforcement goes a long way to help you to stay motivated and continue improving.
Make it enjoyable - When thinking about what kind of exercise you want to do, it is always important to make sure it will be something you enjoy.
That way, it makes it easier to incorporate it into your daily routine and make it into a habit. Try dancing to your favourite music, going for a walk down to the park on a sunny day, or joining one of Habit’s fun group fitness classes.
Set yourself a goal – Sometimes it can be hard to stay motivated without a goal in mind. If you’re having trouble setting a goal and sticking to it, try making it a SMART goal. A SMART goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time based. For example, I want to be able to squat 15 times by the end of next week.
How to make a successful return to the gym
With the government’s recent announcement of Alert Level 1, we can safely return to our normal day-to-day activities, including our fitness programme at the gym. Rest assured, we are maintaining the highest standards of cleaning in all areas of our gyms.
Pick a time – Pick the days and times you know will be easiest for you and mark them down somewhere you will see it often. If you feel short on time as you transition back to work, start with just one or two days a week.
Tell someone about it – It can be good to tell someone else that you’re planning on going back to the gym. Pick someone you know who will help keep you motivated and check in with you about whether you went on your chosen day.
Take someone with you – A step up from just telling someone about it. Check with your close friends and see if they want to come with you too. You can support each other in starting up again and help keep each other motivated!
Ease into it – Don’t overdo it! Start with simple exercises and adjust the load to fit with the level you’re at now, not the level you may have been at before. You don’t want to risk injuring yourself and having to take more time off. Be patient and work gradually towards your goals. If you need advice about what exercises will work for you and how to get the most out of your fitness programme, one of our qualified Personal Trainers can help you.
Join like minds – Sign up for one of our many different group fitness classes and get motivated by the energy and vibe of other liked-minded people. If it’s been a while since you did a class or it’s your first time, read more about what you can expect and how you can benefit from a Habit group fitness class.
Let us help you set goals and stick to them.
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How to manage aches and pains associated with exercise
You may notice that if you haven’t been working out for a while, that you might feel a little stiff and sore the next day or even the day after. The best way to prevent soreness and injury during a workout is to make sure you warm up beforehand, and always do some full-body stretching before and after a workout. If you still feel a little sore afterwards, try a nice warm shower or bath, or use a heat rub or heat pack on the sore area. If the pain doesn’t subside after 72 hours, contact us to speak to a physiotherapist, and we can discuss how to manage your pain and how to prevent injury during exercise in the future.
In summary, regular exercise is an important part of our health and wellbeing and can be especially useful in helping us to manage our physical and emotional wellbeing during times of unexpected or big changes. Making exercise a habit in your life again can seem daunting or difficult, but putting the right strategies in place can make it achievable and keep you motivated. If you still aren’t sure what kind of exercise is right for you or are having trouble structuring an exercise programme because of injury, lack of time or lack of equipment, contact one of our Habit physiotherapists or personal trainers to help you make exercise work for you.
Emma Hart is a Senior Physiotherapist based at Habit Health in Kapiti
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