Creating and staying with an exercise plan can be quite a challenge. For the best chance of success, here’s a 5-step process you can use to set effective, realistic, and actionable exercise goals:
Step 1: Write down your core values and desires, and identify how an exercise program will help achieve them
By way of example, the following are some of my core values and desires, and how regular exercise helps bring them into fruition:
• Role modeling: My Father exercised regularly and remained healthy until he passed at 99 ½ years of age. What a great role model he was! In turn it is important for me to be a role model of healthful living for my children and grandchildren, as well as my patients and others around me.
• Caring for my family, friends, and patients: I have been married for over 36 years. It is important for me to provide for and be able to care for family members, friends, and my patients. To do this, I must be physically fit.
• Being a good servant to my God: I believe our bodies are a gift from God. Just as he wants us to be good stewards of the resources he has provided, I believe he wants us to take good care of the bodies he has given to us, so that we can ably serve Him.
• Being attractive to my mate: Being physically fit is more attractive than being out of shape.
• Enjoying life: I love to play, have fun, travel, and be active. To continue these things as I age requires good general physical conditioning and mobility.
Step 2: Identify the ‘good enough’ situations that are getting in your way now, and recognize that they will not last forever.
It is common to lack the motivation to exercise because your current physical situation is “good enough.” That is to say, at the present time you don’t hurt too much on a regular basis and can do most of what you want to do. However, waiting until you do hurt too much and cannot do most of what you want can be a serious and much regretted mistake.
To counter this thinking, give yourself a reality check: look around at others who are suffering the results of not taking better care of themselves when they could, perhaps including members of your own family.
Like it or not, we are all aging, and bodies begin to wear out at some point. Yet, medical research shows conclusively that being in good physical condition helps maintain youthful resiliency into a late chronological age, staving off deterioration of mind and body. This includes many chronic disease conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, spinal deterioration, arterial blockage, muscle weakness, brain fog, cognitive decline, many forms of cancer, and more.
Step 3: Deciding on an action plan
This comes down to your own schedule and preferences, but it is essential to have a clear action plan. Know that research has shown that you are two to three times more likely to stick with your exercise goals if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you will follow through.
Ideally, a balanced exercise program should include stretching, strengthening, and aerobic conditioning. Yet, we must be realistic here. A large number of studies show that almost any form of regular exercise provides significant health benefits.
So, if there is some form of exercise that you enjoy, do it regularly. The agreed upon minimum for beneficial health effects is 30 minutes of movement at least 4 or 5 times a week. If you just do not enjoy any form of movement, then I recommend setting a treadmill or an elliptical in front of your television, and employing it while watching your favorite shows, or listening to music, podcasts, or recorded books.
Step 4: Increase your chance of success by advanced scheduling
A very important step in maintaining a successful exercise program is scheduling:
• Schedule your workout when your energy is highest and your resistance to exercise is lowest! Individuals vary greatly as to when their energy levels rise and dip throughout the day. To give yourself the best chance, schedule your exercise when you know you’ll have energy.
• Also, schedule when you know you can be consistently available: If you are going out regularly in the evenings, an evening workout may just not work for you. Or, breaking up your exercise into morning aerobic activity and bedtime stretching might be a better choice.
• Commit to a specific time each day when you can exercise. Use a calendar as an accountability partner: Post a large calendar in your workout space and cross off the days where you completed your daily process. Seeing that streak going is a powerful reinforcement of your good work! You can also use this to look back on the past month and see when you worked out, and how much. When were you most successful?
Step 5: Prepare in advance to greatly increase your chances of success
Make sure that your exercise environment is ready to go. For example, if you are a morning exerciser, setting out you exercise clothes and music system the night before. This makes it much easier to get going, and less likely you will just hit the snooze alarm! If you use a treadmill that doubles as a clothes drying rack, remove the clothes before your exercise time!
Finally, please know that I care about you and your health. I am always available to discuss any questions you have about exercising!