We’re surrounded by information about the benefits of exercise, but many of us still have trouble incorporating regular exercise into our lives. Although we know it’s good for our bodies and more and more studies point to the benefits for our mental health, we often still don’t make it a habit.
The following are 4 tips to start an exercise program that you will stick to.
- Start slow. You might want to see results quickly, but starting a new exercise program by exercising so hard that during exercise you find it hard to talk you can postpone the mood boost that accompanies exercise by as much as 30 minutes. This is enough time to make many people give up exercise for good.
- Focus on “feeling good” mentally, rather than on the physical results. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals in the brain associated with positive mood. The effects of endorphins on mood occur immediately following exercise. In contrast, physical changes can take weeks and months—too long to maintain motivation.
- Choose exercise that you like. Making the actual process of exercising pleasant makes it much more likely that you will make the time for it and continue, even when life gets busy.
- Engage in positive self-talk. When it comes to exercise, we often focus on what we haven’t done, rather than what we have. Instead of punishing yourself for your failings (“I didn’t do a full hour today”) praise yourself for what you did accomplish (“I managed to fit 15 minutes into a busy day”).
Starting new habits are never easy. But once you get started, exercising regularly can help you maintain a positive outlook and improve your overall sense of well-being.
Senior couple photo available from Shutterstock.