One life habit that is often neglected is the habit of daily exercise. There are several reasons for this: too hard, too painful or the ever popular, I'll do it later, when I have time.
Physical activity is not as hard as you think. In fact, is not as painful as you think either (you should be virtually pain free after about a week. For a short investment of time each week, you will reap a ton of rewards.
So, don't put off exercise. Get educated on what you want to accomplish and jump in. I'll even help get you started on developing a plan for daily exercise.
- Understand the benefits
Most people vastly underestimate the value of daily physical activity. There are both physical health benefits as well as productivity benefits. The physical health benefits include obvious things such as burning calories and increased metabolism resulting in increased weight loss. Exercise also lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure and helps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Exercise also helps with a number of things that improve life productivity. These include increased energy, better sleep patterns, and reduced stress. All of these allow you to be more productive in your work and play. Physical activity also reduces the risk of depression, increases your self-confidence and in general helps improve your mental state.
- Just get started
Often the hardest part of any task is getting started. Just like a train engine uses the most energy getting up to speed, we often struggle to start anything new, especially exercise. Therefore the priority needs to be on just starting.
Do something physical. You do not need to start by purchasing expensive equipment or joining a gym, instead you can start by going outside for a walk. Take a thirty-minute walk, or play a game with your kids; do something active. By doing something right away, you are starting to gain momentum. Once you've done something basic the first time or two, you can start developing your plan to maintain the practice and to develop the habit.
- Develop a set time
Having a set time to exercise each day is an important way to keep you focused and accountable. The time you choose to exercise will depend a lot on your work schedule and productivity habits. One of the most popular times to exercise is in the morning. If you set yourself the goal to exercise in the morning you can complete it and know that you've started your day by completing one of your most important goals first.
Another popular time is immediately following work, or between 4 and 6 PM. Here exercise serves as valuable transition between work time and your evening schedule. It allows you to de-stress from what you have been doing all day and clear your mind from problems that should be "left at the office".
If you have a more flexible schedule, such as people who work from home, you may want to exercise in the middle of the day or when your productivity tends to slip. Often people will have a productivity decline in the mid-afternoon. Exercise can be a valuable way to fill this time.
Above all, make your daily exercise consistent. Exercise at least six days a week. You can take one day off as a rest day, but don't consider it a "reward" day. If you consider it a "reward" you will soon consider the other six days as "work" that you need to do achieve the "reward". Exercise should be considered a reward on its own.
- Make it fun
It is important to make exercise fun. If exercise is fun on its own, you will be more likely to follow through with your exercising commitment even on days when it may feel difficult.
There are lots of ways to make exercise fun. First of all, choose an activity that you enjoy. For some people this means playing a particular sport. For others it means joining a gym so you they can be around people. For others, it can be fun to purchase a piece of exercise equipment and be able to work out in the comfort of their own home.
Secondly, have fun by creating activities to do while you exercise. This may be watching a favorite television show that you have recorded on your DVR. It may be listening to music on your MP3 player. You can also have fun by setting challenging goals within your exercise program and then achieving them.
- Use the time for personal growth
There are many ways that you can use exercise as format for personal growth. Simply by developing the habit of daily exercise and achieving your goal of improved health and well being you are demonstrating to yourself that you have what it takes to be successful.
You can also use the time for personal growth by listening to podcasts, motivational lectures, sermons, or audio-books. Not only are these activities a wise use of your time, they will inspire you to continue exercising and pushing on towards your goals.
Personally, I alternate between "fun" activities while I exercise (such as watching my favorite television show while I work out on our elliptical trainer), and personal growth activities. Both inspire me to keep exercising and help me to be more productive with the rest of my activities.
- Get a partner or support team
Few things help you pursue your physical activities goals as having a partner or support team. A partner is someone you work out with. Having a partner provides both accountability and encouragement. If you have to meet your partner at a certain place and time for your exercise, chances are you will be there. You don't want to leave your partner alone.
If you don't have a partner who will exercise with you, develop a support team - someone who will encourage you to keep exercising, remind you of the benefits, and challenge you to reach your goals. My wife and I serve in this function for each other. Because of our schedules we exercise at different times, however we both encourage each other and push each other to reach our goals.
- Celebrate your success
Find some way to celebrate your new habit. Perhaps promise yourself a reward if you exercise at least 20 days in the upcoming month. Acknowledge that you have taken some big steps towards improving your life. Perhaps find a reward that you can use while you exercise, such as a new MP3 player, or a new CD. You reward doesn't have to cost money, it could be something as simple as a warm bath, or special meal. Celebrating success is a vital success principle.