You already know that exercise is good for you. Countless studies highlight the benefits of regular physical activity. It prevents disease, improves mental health, decreases the risk of falling (something that scares most of us as we age) and improves cognitive function (yes, it has been shown to lower the risk of dementia). Regular exercise helps control blood pressure, body weight and cholesterol, and reduces the risk of hardening of the arteries, heart attack and stroke. In addition to advancing your mental health, it also strengthens social networks when you join others in an exercise class, a hike, or other group activity. Exercising with a friend promotes a joint sense of purpose and can minimize loneliness.
Why then is it so hard to make exercise part of your routine life? As some of you may know, I have been a group exercise instructor at the World Bank Group for over 27 years. Every January, the Fitness Center would be crowded with people filled with good intentions and New Year’s Resolutions to commit to a healthy lifestyle with a regular exercise program. By the end of January, the Fitness Center was back to normal and most of the newly well-intentioned had disappeared. I would often run into former exercisers in the elevator who asked me how I found the time to commit to a regular exercise program. My response was always the same, “It’s part of my daily routine, like brushing my teeth.” What they were really asking was what they needed to do to make fitness their daily habit. This blog reflects some of my thoughts on how to do so. Here are some pointers to help get you started. While many experts say that it takes 66 days to form a habit, let’s simplify that to say it takes about two months.
One final tip. Exercise does not have to be strenuous, but it does have to be regular to help you make it a habit. Remember to be kind to yourself. If you’re not feeling well and must miss a day, don’t stress. Get back to your routine the next day. You’re doing something good for you. Just keep it up and before you know it, fitness will become part of your daily routine.
Disclaimer: Although moderate physical activity is safe for most people, health experts suggest that you talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program.
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