If you’re getting less than 30 minutes of exercise a week, you’re classed as physically inactive. Sounds familiar? Well, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that 19% of men and 26% of women in the UK get little to no exercise done at all.
For a lot of people, this doesn’t seem like a problem, but with links between physical inactivity, increased mortality rates and poor mental health, it’s time to rethink our relationship with exercise.
We'll be exploring:
The problem is that people are exercising for the wrong reasons.
Exercise, over the decades, has been framed as the golden ticket to achieving your aesthetic goals. Rather than seeing exercise as a preventative medicine, a huge number of people see exercise as an avenue for losing weight or as a punishment for overindulging.
This negative thought process that feeds physical inactivity is ultimately what holds people back from leading healthier lives.
Once one thought of not losing enough weight this month creeps in, or the idea of not getting enough done during your workout takes over, you can begin to feel demotivated and disheartened, making you feel like working out less and less, until eventually you’ve stopped exercising all together.
Dr Kate Gomes shared her thoughts on this with Push Doctor, saying: “Stop thinking of it as weight loss, because sometimes a few pounds might come off but sometimes it doesn’t. Then, when it doesn’t again, you feel as though you’ve failed, and it’s demoralising.”
Dr Gomes is a strong believer in not exercising for the sole purpose of weight loss, and instead focusing on the other benefits it can bring to your life.
And the positive impact getting fitter can have on our body is actually much greater than you may think.
Public Health England have linked increased physical exercise to reducing the risk of:
- Type 2 diabetes by 40%
- Dementia by 50%
- Breast cancer by 20%
- Osteoporosis by 65%
- Colorectal cancer by 50%
- Heart disease by up to 35%.
- Depression by up to 30%
The facts speak for themselves, but why is it so hard to motivate ourselves to get fit?
It's time to change the meaning of 'exercise'
A survey reported by Huffington Post identified the number one reason why people don’t exercise regularly – 30% of respondents claimed that they just didn’t have the time.
But they’re wrong.
Exercise isn’t just going to the gym for an hour, or training for a half-marathon, or even smashing a home workout in your living room. Exercise is whatever you want it to be – it’s playing with your kids at the park, it’s your 10-minute walk to the shop, it’s your Sunday morning swim.
Here at Push Doctor, we want to challenge the idea of fitness ideals. We want to see how real people fit exercise into their daily routines and make it a normal part of everyday life.
If you believe that exercise doesn’t have to belong in the gym, we’re asking you to share an image of you in YOUR gym –the office, a pool, up a mountain – using #ThisIsMyGym on Instagram, tagging us @PushDoctor.
The dangerous side of Instagram #fitspo
This misconception that exercise has to take place in the gym has been fuelled by the rise of fitness trends across social media in recent years.
Instagram’s biggest influencers now include fitness fanatics with dedicated fans – fans who buy their 6-week summer body workouts and follow their ‘before and after’ posts religiously.
Whilst ‘Instagram vs. Reality’ has been a long-fought out battle, when it comes to fitness, it’s a dangerous one. The communities brought together to encourage each other along their fitness journeys have become a hotbed for negative comparisons.
The idea of not working out hard enough, often enough or clever enough feeds into an ‘all or nothing’ approach to exercise. When results aren’t seen in the first few weeks or months, it’s seen as a failure.
The toned abs we see on Instagram don't always equate to the healthy life we're led to believe they do, either. Often the toned physiques we see online are due to extreme fat loss and rigorous workout regimes, not balanced diets and lifestyles.
It’s important to remember that exercise is all about you – your health and your fitness, at your pace, however you feel comfortable.
Dr Victoria Hoyle said: “Everyone can do something. It doesn’t matter what the person next to you is doing; if they’re running further/faster, lifting heavier weights. As long as what you’re doing is challenging for you then you are going to feel the benefit. Being your own competition is a great rule to stick by.”
Find fitness motivation - challenge your 'why', and your 'how'
You are your own biggest barrier when it comes to getting healthier. The biggest changes you can make are what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it.
Here’s my top advice on challenging your own thinking when it comes to fitness:
Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t
Before you start, you need to understand your own lifestyle. Work out what YOU have time for, and how much time you’re willing to put aside each week.
Active 10 lets you set your goals based on bursts of 10-minute brisk walks each day, allowing you to increase your activity levels easily and realistically over time.
If you’re feeling ready for a bit more of a challenge, try the Couch to 5K app. A nine-week guide to completing your first 5K, this running plan for beginners starts with a 20-minute session alternating between running and walking, easing you into the programme.
Change your mindset
The end goal of your exercise routine shouldn’t be aesthetic.
Too many people exercise for the wrong reasons. Exercise should be done to help you get stronger and to be healthier, not just to get leaner. Reflect on the other benefits of working out – reducing joint pain for example, or clearing your mind after a busy day – rather than losing weight.
This brings us back to the Dr Gomes’ advice on the negative thought cycle it’s important to avoid. By working out with the aim of getting healthier and fitter, your goals become more achievable, you can become happier (think of the endorphins!) and exercise becomes a staple in your daily routine.
Get into a routine
It’s said that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. That’s just three weeks.
Stick to your new routine and soon it won’t feel like a chore.
How far do you want to be able to run in 2 months? How many lengths of the pool do you want to do?
Set goals that are only relevant to you – even if it’s cycling to work 3 times a week, or getting a 10-minute walk each evening. Make your goals achievable and work up from there.
Make exercise social
A 2013 study found that 64% of the participants surveyed pushed themselves harder during their workouts with a friend, compared to when they were alone. Recruit a hiking partner, or a swim buddy, or join a class – whatever you’re doing to get fit, don’t do it alone.
Not only will it make you less likely to miss a session, but by sharing your progress regularly and having someone spurring you on will give your motivation levels a much needed boost.
Don’t criticise yourself
Keep your fitness mindset free from negative thoughts. If you miss a session, just make sure you make it next time. If you’re not progressing as quickly as you’d like, remember that getting healthy is a long-term goal. Even the smallest bit of activity contributes towards a healthier life, and if you’re doing that, then you’re doing well.
Are you learning to love exercise? Follow me on Instagram for my latest help and advice for leading a longer, happier life.