Five Fitness Tips for the Average American Who Just Wants to Be Healthy

The Internet is full of fitness tips for hardcore exercisers and on how to get the body of [insert the name of someone famous and attractive], but what most of us want is just to be healthy and happy with ourselves in the middle of our busy life. With this in mind, I thought that it would be a nice idea to have some fitness tips for the average person who doesn’t have much time to exercise and doesn’t want to run a marathon or suddenly become an athlete.

Find what motivates you

Find why exercising matters to you

The most important thing to help your motivation to exercise last is to find why exercising matters to you. Do you want to be healthy, manage your diabetes, change how you look, or make sure you don’t get winded after a long flight of stairs? No matter what it is, it does have to matter to you! If you are trying to lose weight because someone else is pressuring you and not because you actually want to weigh less than you weigh right now, it is going to be hard to maintain your motivation in the long term. Also, there is research showing that exercise/fitness is good for your health no matter how much you weigh, so don’t think that to be healthy you must be thin.

Once you have a goal, plan how you will achieve it

After you figure out what motivates you, you have to make it into a goal and form a plan to achieve it. Important things to consider here: be realistic, make your long-term goal measurable, and break it down to smaller goals for the short term. For example, if your goal is just to be healthy and not be winded at the top of the stairs, you have to consider your current fitness level and your availability to exercise before deciding how long it will take you to get there. Your goal could be to be able to walk at a fast pace for 30 minutes in six months, for example. Then you can have a weekly goal that will get harder every week until you get to your final goal in six months. If you do absolutely nothing right now, you could simply start with an easy walk for 15 minutes twice a week and slowly increase time, intensity, and frequency (times per week) until you get there.

Don’t compare yourself with others

Just do you

I know, it’s pretty hard not to compare yourself to others. You may think that having a goal of not getting winded after a long flight of stairs is not meaningful enough when there are people trying to be The Next American Ninja on TV, but you have to let it go. You are probably not going to be the most fit, thin, healthy person anyways, so just do you. You have to find what works for you in terms of routine (how often you exercise, where, how long, etc.) and the goal that fits your life and desires. If you keep focusing on your own improvement, you will get closer to your goal every day, and that’s what matters.

Plan your exercise sessions at the beginning of the week

You must be thinking “this goal thing sounds awesome, but I always have plans to exercise and never do it.” Well, one thing that really helps is to schedule the time in your calendar (or whatever you use to organize your daily life). Set aside that time and protect it as if it was an important meeting – or even better: a Packers game. Of course that you also have to be realistic about this and you may have to sometimes miss it, but in the end you will go to most of your sessions and keep improving if you have them on your calendar and take them seriously.

Avoid the “all-or-nothing” thinking

Missing a session doesn’t equal failure

Having said that it’s important to schedule your sessions and take them seriously, also keep in mind that missing a session doesn’t equal failure. This is called all-or-nothing thinking, which is believing that if you don’t do everything perfectly, you are failing and should just give up. Well, I can guarantee that you will miss a session eventually, so don’t go there. The next session is when you really want to make sure you go to avoid losing the momentum. Have self-compassion and expect setbacks. Then remember why you care about your goal and how much you have progressed so far and go back to pursuing your goal.

I hope these tips can inspire you to be more fit and also more confident about improving your fitness. You will see how great exercising will make you feel and hopefully have a blast on the way to your goal.

By Dr. Jana Fogaça

Jana Fogaça is an Assistant Professor in Psychology and Chair of the Master’s Program in Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology. She is interested in sport performance, exercise psychology, and mental health. Follow the SEPP program on Twitter at @UWGB_SEPP

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