Today is National Fitness Day and during these challenging times, we all know that exercise will make us feel better mentally as well as physically.
Regular exercise has been shown to boost mood and emotional wellbeing and has been recommended by the charity Mind as a good way to combat mild depression. It can also reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke as well as cut the likelihood of you developing dementia and certain cancers.
However, for exercise to be effective, it needs to be consistent. Women’s Fitness Editor Christina Neal shares her six top tips on how to motivate yourself to stay active…
1. Get into a routine
It’s important to get into a routine that will prevent you from being tempted to skip a workout or finding that you don’t have time because you’ve got too much work to do. Try and work out at the same time each day if you can so that exercise becomes a habit and a regular part of your day. If you work out in the morning, have your exercise kit ready at the end of the bed so that you can just get up and pull it on quickly, then go for your run or your workout. Don’t be tempted to answer emails or start doing chores around the house before you work out, or you’ll be less likely to do it.
2. Find something you love
The best way to get fit and stay that way is to find an activity that motivates you. If you hate running but you’re doing it because you’ve heard it’s a great way to burn fat and lose weight, you won’t stick to it. Willpower can only last for so long. Find something that you can imagine yourself wanting to do for mental wellbeing as well as the physical benefits at least three, to four times a week. It doesn’t matter what it is so long as you feel some degree of exertion while you’re doing it.
3. Let role models inspire you
Read up on others who have achieved great things, such as running marathons, doing ultras, coming back against the odds from injury or illness to achieve a fitness goal, so that you can use their stories for motivation. I take inspiration from people who can run ultras who have the mental focus to keep going however tired or sore they are feeling. Their discipline and focus inspire me to do my workouts, even though I’m not about to sign up for an ultra.
4. Change your workout every four to six weeks
You may find boredom setting in if your workout consists of the same half an hour run around the same field every day. Find variety in your sessions and change things around. Try new machines at the gym, mix up the order of your exercises, or do the same exercises if you enjoy them but change the tempo, the duration or the rest periods. Make it different so that your body not only has a stimulus to respond to (which makes it stronger) but also keeps it fresh.
5. Set a goal or a target
Having a goal or target is a great way to boost motivation. Sign up for a virtual race or commit to doing a certain number of workouts or completing a set amount of mileage per week and you will have a good reason to go out and exercise.
6. Remember that health is true wealth
Think you don’t have time to work out? I work out first thing every day before I do anything else. It sets me up for the day. On the rare occasion that I skip a workout, I feel sluggish, less productive and mentally more tired. In other words, I know that doing my exercise routine first thing will benefit me in everything else I do for the rest of the day. Make sure it’s the same for you. There is no greater wealth in life than having your health and we don’t always appreciate what we have until it’s gone. So make your exercise routine a priority and remind yourself you’re doing it not just to look good and feel more confident but for your health and wellbeing in the long term.