Staying physically active over time can be tricky. Life throws us curve balls from time to time. Even though we have the best of intentions, sometimes we allow life situations to knock us off our activity routine.
Learning lifestyle management skills can help you stay active long term. Here's an overview of helpful skills that are easily learned:
Identify personal benefits.
Understanding how beneficial being physically active is helps you stay active. Be sure to identify how being physically active benefits you rather than vague benefits like "I'll be healthier" Take time to figure out how being active will enhance your life in ways that matter to you. For example, some people want to stay fit and flexible enough to play with their grandchildren. Others want extra energy to complete everyday tasks or enjoy a favorite activity. Some want to sleep better or reduce pain. The key is to find what motivates you.
Consider the effects on those you love.
Being physically active not only helps you—it benefits others such as your spouse, partner, or children. Remember, physically active people tend to be healthier, stronger, sleep better, and have more energy and a brighter outlook on life. That's great for you and also great for the people you care about.
Find an activity you truly enjoy.
Choosing an activity you really enjoy doing will motivate you to stay active over time. Fortunately, there are a myriad of options for being physically active. Everything from softball to scuba diving, bowling to ballroom dancing. And, let's not forget, walking! The bottom line is if you love it you'll do it.
Set realistic goals and rewards.
Setting goals helps you pace yourself, measure your progress, and stay motivated. The most effective goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound. Select rewards for achieving your goals—this will help motivate you to stick with your plans. Get more information on setting SMART goals.
Make a commitment.
Write down specifically when, how much, and how you plan to be active. Print it and sign it. Put this paper somewhere you will see it every day. This will remind you that you made a commitment to yourself. Telling a trusted family member, friend, or colleague of your commitment will help you stay accountable to your commitment.
Set reminders for yourself at home and at work.
Some examples are leaving your keys inside your walking shoes, placing a note on your refrigerator, or setting a walking appointment on your electronic calendar. Find a system that works for you.
Track your activity.
Research shows that people who track their activity are much more likely to stay active long term. Choose a tracking system that works for you. Many people like to use pedometers or step counters (see Pedometer FAQs). Others prefer to use a paper or electronic log (get our tracking form).
Research shows that having social support helps you stay active. There are lots of ways people can provide support; they can cheer you on, offer emotional support, provide practical help, or even join you in your activity. Support can come from family, co-workers, neighbors, or friends.
Practice the art of problem solving.
We all face challenges sticking with our physical activity from time to time. By learning to develop solutions to those challenges, you can stay active. Let's say, for instance, an upcoming vacation threatens to sideline your physical activity. By planning ahead you can find ways to stay active while travelling—by using the hotel treadmill, taking a walking tour of the city you're visiting, or planning active stops while driving. Problem solving allows you to craft solutions that work for you, no matter what situation.
Learn about physical fitness opportunities in your community.
Most communities have countless physical activity resources. Check your local newspaper, phone book, and chamber of commerce website for activity cubs, fitness centers, classes, trails, and more. Campus Wellbeing Services and Campus Recreation can tell you about opportunities on the campus.
When it comes to physical activity, the important thing is to find something you enjoy and then create a supporting structure that will help you keep doing it! Before you know it, you will be well on your way to a new and healthier you!