7 Simple Steps to Get Moving More
For many of us, early spring is when we start vowing to exercise more. But if you’ve been more of a couch potato than a gym rat since the pandemic—or longer—committing to a major workout can be intimidating.
“Inertia really set in during the pandemic,” says Marcia K. Morgan, a motivation expert and author of GO! How to Get Going and Achieve Your Goals and Dreams at Any Age. “We got out of our good habits and it was hard to find our place. We need to be gentle with ourselves.”
Here’s the thing to keep in mind: Any movement you add to your day is a literal step in the right direction. “Five minutes of movement is way better than zero minutes,” points out Saara Haapanen, Ph.D., a Denver-based coach and creator of the Move at Work Challenge. “Everything you do throughout your day counts. You’re never too old, never too late, or never too big to get started. You just have to decide you're taking steps to be a happier, healthier you.”
Tips to Help You Develop a Movement Mindset
Adding more movement into your day doesn't require a new Spandex-heavy wardrobe or a pricey gym membership. But what you do need is a plan and a positive attitude. Here are seven no-pain-but-some-gain ways to get yourself moving more this year.
1. Set Immediate Goals—and Reward Them
“We are a nation of immediate gratification, we tend to care more about our present self than our future self,” says Morgan. So while it’s important to have long-term goals like reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes, you also need milestones you can reach much sooner, like walking up the stairs without feeling winded, or hitting 3,000 steps a day by the end of the month. Then, reward yourself (with a manicure, an indulgent midday movie matinee, or a new pair of running shoes) when you reach it—and set the next goal.
2. Mark Your Calendar
To help make those small activity goals stick, add them to your daily schedule, says Morgan. Each morning over breakfast, figure out a few ways you will add in extra movement, and note them in your calendar.
3. Add New Habits to Old Ones
Fitness is all about creating good habits, notes Michelle Miller, a certified personal trainer in Tallahassee, Florida and creator of My First Workout. “The best way is to add a new habit to one you already have, and start small,” she says. This so-called habit stacking could look like doing a few lunges as you walk outside to get the mail or doing squats while you brush your teeth. Once you mindfully add these moves, you'll start doing them without even thinking about it.
4. Take Housework to the Next Level
Lots of household chores involve getting in a little cardio workout. You can kick it up a notch by purposely adding more steps and movement, suggests Haapanen. When you’re doing laundry, for example, fold a few shirts and then get up and put them away. Next, go back to the laundry room, fold a couple of sweatshirts and put them away. Do the same with all your laundry, from jeans to socks, and watch your daily step count increase.
5. Delete Delivery Apps
Nowadays, you can get groceries delivered to your door or find people to offload physical tasks like putting together furniture and walking your dog right on your phone. It can be tough to rouse yourself off the couch when just about everything you need is available at your fingertips. Miller suggests choosing one or two tasks to do on your own for the next month, such as carrying your own groceries or weeding your own yard.
6. Take a Stand
“Humans are not meant to be seated all day,” says Haapanen. You can invest in a standing desk, but an easier (and less expensive) way to literally get off your butt is to set an alert on your phone or smartwatch every 60 minutes as a reminder to get up. If you’re at work, walk a loop around the office. If you're at home, put on your favorite song and take a dance break. “When you sit down at your desk or the kitchen table, take a minute to sit and stand back up 10 times,” Miller says. This works large muscle groups in your legs, and involves your heart and lungs as well.
7. Get Friendly
Perhaps the easiest way to stick to any new movement plan is to invite a friend to do it with you. “Moving with a friend adds both accountability and distraction,” says Haapanen. “If you set an appointment with someone else, you are way less likely to cancel versus working out alone.” Moving with other people can also boost your social connections. So invite a friend to sign up for a yoga class, or make a date to walk to a coffee bar together every Monday morning. Another way to get a boost: Take a walk with your partner, family, or best friend after dinner once a week. It’s a great way to wind down and connect at the end of the day.
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