You’ve heard or read about how people of all ages and body types can benefit from being physically active.
Perhaps you got inspired to set on a health improvement journey of your own and of your family. You may already know that taking small steps can incrementally lead you to your health goals. And you may also have tried those steps, but before healthy behaviors became a habit, old habit got its way.
Deciding to change your lifestyle to a healthier one is the easy part. Implementing the action steps is another story. There are seemingly roadblocks everywhere. How do you get past the roadblocks? The U.S. Department of Health Services offers some creative ways to address them. Here are some barriers and corresponding solutions examples:
n “I don’t have enough time” — Instead of doing one long session of exercise, build in several short bursts (three to five minutes) that will not disrupt your day. Try to walk more while doing your errands and walk in place during TV commercials or while on the phone. Simply standing up instead of sitting at your desk also has benefits.
n “I just don’t like exercise” — good news — you do not have to run or do push-ups to get the benefits of physical activity. Try dancing to the radio or being active with friends to make exercise more enjoyable. Many people find that they like exercise better the more they do it.
n “I’m worried about health or injury” — If you have a hard time being active because of your health, talk to a health care provider first. A certified fitness professional can also guide you on how to be active safely.
n “I feel self-conscious working out in front of others” — Start with exercise at home until you feel confident. Be active with friends who will support and encourage you. Having someone “in your corner” may make you feel less self-conscious.
You may have other roadblocks not mentioned above. Write them down. Keeping an activity journal is a use for some people. It may be helpful to set short-term goals towards a long-term goal and don’t forget the rewards for meeting those goals. A short-term goal can be, to walk five to 10 minutes, five days a week while a long term goal can be to do at least 30 minutes of physical activity at a moderate intensity level on most days of the week. Keep the steps simple:
n Set a goal — short and long-term.
n Make a plan — whether to walk, run, dance, go to the gym.
n Get to work — implement your activity plan.
n Stick to it — no excuses with total commitment, keeping your eye on your goal.
n Reach the goal — reward yourself after you reach your goal.
All too common, we get very enthusiastic and we set out to a journey towards many big goals. It can get overwhelming from the get go. Avoid these common mistakes in goal setting:
n Too big — stick with small goals and small steps. Instead of having a goal of losing 20 pounds in the next year, perhaps try losing two pounds a month.
n Too many — instead of committing to dancing, bike riding, mountain climbing, yoga, tai chi, and a drastic diet change all at once, try one new activity and commit on reducing your soda intake in a day.
n Not specific — saying “I want to lose 20 pounds” is less committal than saying “I want to lose two pounds a month in the next 12 months.” It is also measurable for tracking purposes.
n Not written — writing your specific, time-framed goal will help you track your progress. An unwritten goal cannot hold your attention. Anything you don’t put your attention into, withers and dies into a forgotten wish.
Dr. Elvie C. Ancheta is administrator of the California Department of Veterans Affairs’ William J. “Pete” Knight Veterans Home in Lancaster.