What’s keeping YOU from exercising?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise each week. That’s a bit under 1.5 percent of the 168 hours in each week. It should be such an easy target to hit.
Participants in Healthy Parks, Healthy People, Cape Cod Healthcare’s summer walking program at the Cape Cod National Seashore, were asked why they didn’t exercise more often.
“The number one issue is lack of time,” said Julie Drake, PT, DPT, director of rehabilitation services at Cape Cod Hospital. “People don’t give themselves permission to take time for themselves and do what they know they should be doing.”
The second obstacle was lack of motivation.
“They don’t have the get-up-and-go to get out and do it, even though they know they should,” she said.
We asked one of the healthiest people we know how to get past those exercise excuses.
Jason Rose, an exercise physiologist with Cape Cod Healthcare, has a master’s degree in clinical exercise physiology from Northeastern University. He works with patients in Cape Cod Healthcare’s cardiac rehabilitation program in Hyannis.
From his experience, he confirmed that time is the prime reason people give for not exercising regularly.
“We’re all too busy to get things as organized as we’d like to,” he said.
So What Is the Solution?
We can’t create more than 24 hours in a day, so how can we fit in time for exercise?
“My challenge to you is to pick a time in the day – even if it’s just 20 minutes –and schedule it as an appointment for yourself. Go for a walk or go to the gym.
“It doesn’t have to be the same time every day, but it needs to be a convenient time every day. Write it on your calendar or put it on your phone and set the alarm, so that you know that’s your time to get moving.
“We know that exercise is vital for our health, so it should be a top priority every day.”
The other big obstacle is motivation. A great way to help make exercise a bigger priority is using the buddy system.
“One of the key things is having a positive support system, having a friend or relative or spouse, somebody that’s on board with you,” said Rose. “You can be accountable to them and they can be accountable to you. You can exercise together or if don’t exercise together, you call each other or text each other to check in. That way you’re keeping yourself honest.”
He sees those networks develop at the cardiac rehab program.
“If somebody doesn’t show up, they’ll ask, ‘Where’s Bill today? Why didn’t he show up? Is he OK?’ They really develop a bond.”
The buddy system doesn’t have to be competitive – it’s more about checking up on each other – but for some people comparing workouts helps build enthusiasm. It’s all about whatever works for you.
Part of maintaining motivation is choosing the right form of exercise, Rose said.
“If you find an activity you enjoy, you’ll do it more frequently. Do you like listening to music or watching television while you work out on the treadmill? Those can help motivate us.”
Anyone Can Do It
Some people avoid exercise because they’re nervous about physical ailments or limitations, he said.
Not everybody can walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes at a stretch, so going for a walk or trying water aerobics or chair yoga may be a better fit, he said.
“Some people are intimidated. They say, ‘I can’t do yoga. I can’t even touch my toes.’ But it’s not about that. It’s about trying something new and getting out there. That’s why I think the buddy system helps a lot.”
Rose recommends checking a nearby community center or senior center to see what fitness classes it offers.
If you’re a little intimidated about stepping into a new class, bring a friend or even a group of friends. Or you can hire a private instructor for one or two sessions and try out yoga, tai chi or another exercise routine before you step into a big group class.
As for health clubs, convenience needs to be a prime consideration.
“If you can find something within 10 minutes of your house or work location, you’re more likely to do it on a regular basis,” he said.
And don’t forget to keep moving throughout the day.
“We sit a lot – at desks and watching TV but also driving to work, driving the kids to soccer practice – and people who sit more than seven hours a day increase their risk of death by 5 percent,” he said.
He suggests getting up every 30 minutes and stretching or standing, or doing a light activity for even just one minute.
“Just keep moving!” Rose said.