There is a myth we would like to address. Whenever anyone mentions the word ‘exercise’, ‘sport’ or ‘activity’ there seems to be an expectation that whatever that activity is will immediately require a commitment to working out four times a week.
This is a simply untrue – and uninspiring. The reality is that it is better to start out with small, manageable amounts of time, so that they lay the foundations for a good habit. Then when the habit is second nature, you can increase the amount of time you spend incrementally.
If the image in your mind is one of strenuous, heavy commitment – and hard work – then unless you are a glutton for punishment it doesn’t sound fun.
But by thinking small, thinking “fun,” and accepting that even a small bout of activity will have a significant impact, you can really develop a much more positive outlook.
The fun element is really important. If you and your husband, wife or partner never seem to get any quality time, why not agree to go for a short walk together?
At the same time as you are being active you can talk through the events of the day, plan ahead, share your concerns. Or go with the whole family for a swim on late Sunday afternoon to round off the weekend. The kids will be suitable worn out and sleep well before school, and you will feel a sense of achievement, a feel-good factor, to set you up for the delights of Monday morning!
Once you feel that sense of fun and enjoyment you will probably want to do it again – the real secret to creating a positive habit. Try out a few different exercise activities, from spin classes to running, rowing machines to walking. Give each one a few weeks to see whether it resonates with you. The received wisdom is that it takes three to four weeks for anything to become a proper habit.
If you don’t enjoy it, there is no obligation to continue. In fact, you will just cast a negative cloud over your feelings about exercise if you do.
Once you find an activity that clicks, stick with it. Because creating a habit for two weeks, then a month, then a year will give you the basis for staying active through your entire life. That is important, not just for your own future health, but for enjoying time and participating in the lives of your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren in an active and shared way.
Think too about your own personality. If you are really not a morning person, don’t tell everyone you are going to be up at first light doing a 30-minute run, because in your heart of hearts you’ll know you are never going to be able to do that. Match your choice of activity to you so that it feels comfortable and natural.
And don’t over-commit to a fearsome regime. Half an hour of activity three times a week is a good target, but that half an hour could be made up of three lots of 10 minutes during a particularly busy period. If you miss a session, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just look forward to the next session instead. Remember that you have already done something very special: making a positive decision to improve your all-round health.