We’ve all been there. After a weekend of overindulging in treats, we wake up Monday morning with the very best intentions for eating right and hitting the gym. Unfortunately, by the time Tuesday rolls around, our healthy plans have often fallen by the wayside.
If the above sounds familiar, know that you’re not alone. According to a recent article in Harvard Magazine, 35% of men and 40% of women in the U.S. are currently obese, as are a shocking 17% of kids. Obesity can lead to a host of negative health effects, including risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Yet despite these frightening statistics, about half of all American adults fail to get the recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week.
So what’s preventing us from hitting the gym and getting fit? And what can we do to stop it?
If you’re struggling to reach your fitness goals, the problem might not be a lack of discipline so much as an evolutionary distaste for going the extra mile. Harvard researcher and professor of biology Daniel Lieberman notes that humans have always limited their exercise efforts to the bare minimum required for survival. While our ancient human ancestors may have gotten more physical activity by being hunter-gatherers, they spent the time in between journeys resting. Humans never exercised for pleasure or to get fit. It would have been foolish in an environment where food sources were limited.
While our aversion to exercise may be understandable from a biological standpoint, that’s not an excuse for packing on the pounds. On the contrary, adults and children in this country need to seek out ways to make working out more palatable. If you’re struggling to find the motivation for getting fit, here are some tips to spur you off the couch and onto the road to health.
People who skip out on the gym might not be lazy so much as uninspired. If you want to add some excitement to your next workout, consider making it a competition rather than a solo trip. After all, there’s little excitement involved in running on a treadmill or climbing flights on the Stairmaster. Playing a team sport adds an element of fun and gets your competitive juices flowing. You’re more likely to show up (and work twice as hard) knowing that you have something to prove, so think about joining an adult soccer league or showing up for that pickup game of Ultimate Frisbee.
Heading to the gym alone can be a struggle. Some of us may even find ourselves turning the car around and hitting our local Wendy’s rather than the health club. Or maybe we never even get off the couch. If solo sessions aren’t getting the job done, think about finding a workout buddy to accompany you on that gym trip or jog. Not only are you more likely to show up if someone else is counting on you, but you can also inspire and egg each other on. Maybe you’ll even challenge each other to reach new goals and milestones, boosting both your fitness efforts. In addition, working out with a partner can encourage you to try new exercise moves and routines you might not have attempted on your own.
If you surveyed the members at your gym, you’d be hard pressed to find one who wasn’t looking to make changes to his or her appearance. It’s all too common for fitness fiends to be more concerned with their appearances than their overall health. However, personal fitness experts recommend looking beyond the physical when it comes to motivation. Instead of worrying about those extra pounds, try to focus on smaller goals. Try to run half a mile or lift heavier dumbbells. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight and build muscles, these changes take time. You don’t want to get upset and lose motivation because the results aren’t instantaneous. So stop fixating on the number on your shirt tag and start appreciating yourself for all your hard work.
That neighborhood gym might offer great deals, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for you and your goals. If you don’t work out because you dislike the facility in question, it doesn’t matter how affordable the monthly dues are; you’re still throwing your money away. Instead, consider spending a few dollars more on a gym that meets your needs. For example, if you love to swim, find a facility with an Olympic-sized pool and Jacuzzi. Or if you enjoy a vigorous game of basketball, look for a gym with courts you can reserve by the hour. You also might want to consider the clientele before signing that 18-month contract. If the weights room is full of noisy bodybuilders who don’t wipe down their equipment, you might not feel comfortable using the machines. By selecting the right gym for your needs, you increase your odds of going and hitting your fitness goals.
No, we’re not saying you should stop by your local fast food giant for a double cheeseburger after a workout. However, rewarding yourself for your hard work will go a long way toward ensuring you achieve your goals. It’s natural to view greasy or sweet treats as a perfect reward for a job well done, but there are motivators outside the kitchen. If you hit the gym three times a week as intended, reward yourself on Saturday with a long, leisurely massage. Or save some money and opt to take a hot bath, complete with your favorite candles and magazines. Figure out what motivates you and give yourself the incentive to start the next week off right.
If you want to live longer while staying healthy, regular exercise is essential. Figure out what’s stopping you from achieving your fitness goals and start taking action to make your dreams a reality.
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