Exercise motivation: solve your activity apathy in six easy ways

what's slowing you down? image

What's stopping you from getting physical?

Australians are sports fanatics.

We love to watch others, whether it's from the comfort of a chair in front of the box watching the dedicated sports channels, supporting a sports team, attending cricket one-dayers, tennis cups, golf classics, or even visiting the oval with their kids in school sport.

We have fond youthful memories of playing sports and being active but seriously, how active and sporty are you really these days?

If cheering is the only workout your lungs get and the Mexican wave is about as physical as you can manage, you need to get active.

With more than 35 years behind me as a dietitian, I have heard 1000s of excuses to explain inactivity away.

Too tired, too old, don't like it, too wet, too hot, too cold, too busy. The list goes on forever.

And whilst I am the first to agree that physical activity may not help you burn off excess body fat, activity definitely helps you to keep body fat off in the long term.

Activity helps you avoid the rebound weight gain.

Activity also helps tone the body and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, helps with blood glucose and blood pressure control, improves mood, and reduces levels of depressed feelings.

'Huff and puff' aerobic activity helps to reduce fat build-up in liver. In other words, daily activity helps you in ways far beyond managing your weight.

Take a look at the top 6 reasons and explore a few solutions. Change the way you think about activity and build more movement into your day. Repeat and practise the 'new movements' every day to form new life-lasting habits.

1. No time?

  • Automatically build activity into your day.
    • Forget the lift, take the stairs.
    • Park further away from the drop-off zone or shops so you walk a little further.
    • Stand while you are watching TV (or at least during the ad breaks) or talking on the phone.
  • Use time wasted in waiting. How much time do you spend hanging around, just waiting? At the bus stop, train station, school pick-up, child/partner's sports session, for the kettle to boil or microwave to ping, or somewhere else - be honest. Use that time to add a little more movement.
    • At home, use an exercise band or do hand weights (with cans of food), jump on the treadmill, exercise bike, or walk on the spot. Be bold and run on the spot as hard as your body and health allows for a minute or two.
    • Near public transport, walk up and down the platform or to the next bus stop. Everyone, especially you, can grab a little time to be active.
  • Do the maths on your own day to find some spare time. 24 hrs a day minus 10 hrs work and commuting minus 8 hrs sleeping minus 2 hr domestic stuff (eg cooking/laundry) minus 2 hrs miscellaneous (eg shower/meal times/homework) = 2 hrs spare. Surely you can book in 20 to 30 minutes extra of planned activity most days, especially on your non-work days when the 10 hr work block is freed up?
    • Talk with an exercise expert (exercise physiologist or trainer) about what style and dose of exercise is best for you. You may discover that small hits of really intense activity are a perfect fit for both your body and your day.

2. Don't like exercise? Bad memories of sweat and pain for no gain?

  • Forget about the notion of "no pain = no gain". It is not true.
  • Find activities that you like and you will enjoy them more often. Exercise doesn't have to be formal sport or gym work.
  • Exercise is anything that moves your body more than you are doing now. Whether it is gardening, walking, dancing, mucking about with the footy, or golf.
  • Look for fun and vary what you do. Yo-yo skills, racing the dog to fetch the ball, frisbee with the local kids ... the best exercise is the one you will do. Liking it makes it so much easier to do.

3. No energy or too old or too tired?

  • Get an exercise clearance test from your doctor or ask us for a referral for an expert and objective, unbiased assessment of your true fitness from an exercise physiologist.
  • Start small and move steadily. That way you won't over-tax your body but you will gradually build up your fitness and strength. It will get easier with time.
  • Find an activity that doesn't stress your body too much: water work-outs, hydrotherapy or seated activities might be what your personal trainer or physio suggest. Talk to an exercise expert before you start. Find one today.

4. Easily distracted and forget to do it?

  • Change into your runners before you leave work and before you drive to collect the kids from school or wait for someone/something else. You are walk-ready as soon as you step out of the car.
  • Leave the runners in the car or by the door or keep a spare set at work for lunchtime walks.
  • Set up reminders in your phone/computer/diary/calendar and lock in a date with yourself to be active.
  • Change one login password that you access daily into a reminder. Perhaps combine the style of exercise with the distance or minutes or day, such as Swim5 (for swim 5 km), GymTuesThurs (for go to gym on Tues and Thurs).

5. Too hot or wet in summer? Too cold or dark in winter?

  • Too wet? A raincoat or umbrella will keep you dry. Rain will cool you down. If you don't like the rain, have some indoor activities up your sleeve. You do not need expensive equipment. Consider floor jogging, skipping, jumps, stair climbing, or mat work (pilates, yoga). Before you buy fancy equipment, dust off the gear lurking in the spare room and garage. Think long and hard about whether you will use more gym weights, wind trainer, stationary bike, indoor elliptical trainer, or whatever the latest new-fangled device or DVD is advertised on the selling channels and internet.
  • Too hot? Find an air-conditioned venue or buy a fan for those hot days. Jump into the pool or carry a water bottle to douse yourself.
  • Too cold? Activity generates heat! Pull the quilt off, rug up, grab the gloves and beanie - get physical. Soon you will be tearing the layers off and turning the heater down.
  • Too dark? Rearrange your day to allow daylight activity. If you can't, light your way with a torch or headlamp.

6. Don't like doing it alone?

  • Ask around. You may be surprised to discover someone from work, your child's school, the church, or local club wants to walk but like you doesn't want to do it alone.
  • Ring the Heart Foundation for their group walking program.
  • Ring up or log onto your local council's community programs to find lots of physical fun happenings at local parks, walkways, community centres and pools.
  • Volunteer to walk a neighbour's dog.
  • Join a club.
  • Ask at the local bicycle or sports equipment shop for leads on fitness fun.
  • Keep your eyes open for charity walking events and join them.

Explore how much you need here.

NOTE: I am not an exercise expert, so please seek advice from a personal trainer, physiotherapist or your doctor for specific exercises and activity