Monday, September 26, 2011

Ask Us Anything: How Can I Get Motivated to Exercise?

"I know that I should be exercising daily, especially since I work at a desk for 8.5 hours a day. But by the time I get home from work, I feel exhausted and want to relax. Are there any strategies that I can use to increase my motivation?"

Physical Therapist Richard Szabala Responds:

Probably the number one block to exercising is the mental block or perhaps lack of motivation to exercise.

Let's face it: between our working lives and home lives, especially if you have school-aged children, it is hard to find the energy and or time to start and continue with an exercise program.

However, we need to realize that exercising is important to maintain a healthy life.

Let's examine the tangible reasons to exercise. Scientific studies have shown that individuals who participate in regular exercise programs:
  • are less prone to injuries and illness,
  • have lower blood pressure,
  • have decreased chance for diabetes and heart disease, and
  • demonstrate a higher energy level than individuals that do not participate in regular exercise programs.
These items alone should provide impetous to begin an exercise program. So why is it so hard to start and maintain an exercise program? It usually comes down to two main reasons: lack of time and lack of desire.

Between our 8-5 job and 5-8 family time, when do we have time to exercise? The good news is that the United States Department of Health has determined that exercising 30 minutes a day is enough to maintain a healthy existence.

Furthermore, you can divide that time up through out the day into 10 minute segments and still gain the benefits of your exercises.

For example, while I am waiting for my son to finish hockey practice, I take a 15 minute walk around the area. This allows me to kill two birds with one stone and get half my daily exercise prescription in. I do other tasks throughout the day for the other half.

As for desire to exercise, that comes from within. When most people think of exercise, they think of a gym full of weights and people grunting and lifting and sweating and a lot of hard work. It certainly doesn't look like something that I would want to do, nor does it look like fun. That is the extreme of exercise for individuals who want to get "ripped." Something as simple as walking at a brisk pace can fulifill your 30-minute exercise prescription. You do not need fancy equipment or gym memberships to get exercise in.

Exercise should be something fun. If walking is not your thing, perhaps try bicycling. Maybe it is swimming, playing tennis, playing soccer, walking your dog, or even country line dancing! I've even seen that a competitive game of chess can burn calories due to the intense brain function involved. These are all simple activities that can fulfill your daily exercise prescription.

The bottom line is it should be something you like to do. This will make it fun and it will allow you to stick with it.

Although exercising sounds simple, it may not be easy. Find 30 minutes a day for yourself. Ideally, you want to leave your home and work life during this time so you can spend that time on you. Find physical activities that you enjoy doing, and to quote Nike, "Just do it."

– Richard Szabala PT, OCS

Richard Szabala is the senior physical therapist at AthletiCare Orchard Park.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

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