Getting active and staying active long term.

What do you do to keep and stay active?  Would you put active and enjoy in the same sentence?

Or does being active conjure up images of discomfort and endurance, sufficient to send you looking for the nearest exit.

Our bodies are designed to move.  When you read through the list of benefits it seems like being active is a no brainer.  Being active improves our mood, combats poor health and disease, increases our energy levels, improves the quality of our sleep, our sex life and ensures we stay strong, mobile and flexible to live a long quality life.  And of course it is fun.

And when have you read a recommendation that did not involve being active as well as eating a healthy food?

So what is the key to being more active, to putting enjoy and active in the same sentence?  To avoid finding yourself on yet another get fit campaign clenching your jaw mumbling details of a revenge plan on whoever created the words no pain no gain?  What do you do?

Make ‘activity’ fun

Over the years I have tried a lot of different strategies to make being active fun long term.  An ongoing theme of my early years was fashion, or maybe I use the term fashion loosely?  There were fluoro coloured bike shorts, leggings and bright pink lycra leotards and swimming caps that would have allowed me to blend in on a space ship in any good sci-fi flick.

In fact, I discovered enjoying activity long term was less about what you wear and more about planning and choice of activity.  To help you on your journey to becoming and staying more active long term I have provided 12 key tips and insights I believe will help you rethink your perspective.

1. Be clear about what you would like to achieve

Do you want to increase your flexibility, do want to redress a niggling back issue, is completing a fun run on your bucket list or do you simply want to be more mobile and able to enjoy outdoor activities?  Being clear about what you would like to achieve will help you narrow down potential activity options.  Not everyone needs to adopt the goal of running a half marathon.

2. Select an activity you know you will enjoy long term

I would like to encourage you to adopt the habit of being active long term.  Taking up an activity you have never tried or one you have tried and endured will undermine your efforts very quickly.  Yes, increasing your fitness will require effort however if you begin by choosing an activity you know you enjoy you are more likely to stick with it long term.

3. Be realistic about your current level of fitness

Choosing an activity well beyond your current health and fitness capacity is not only likely to leave you feeling inadequate, it may leave you sore and stiff or worse put you at risk of injury.  Choose something you can currently do and build on it.

4. Select small incremental goals that can be measured

Adopting incremental goals that can be measured is essential.  Begin by identifying your ultimate goal, and then break it down into the smaller steps.  Ensure you acknowledge and celebrate achievement of each step.  Doing so, will provide you with motivation to continue your good work, ensure you feel good about what you have achieved and prevent you feeling overwhelmed with the level of change you are seeking.

5. Choose an activity that does not involve spending large sums of money

Spending large sums of money on a new activity increases the risk of tears and an empty pocket.  There are so many activities that are free or only require a small spend.  Consider walking, running, swimming, activities that include daily, weekly or monthly pay-as-you-go options or those where you temporarily borrow equipment from a friend, possibly a bike to ride or a tennis racket for some social tennis.  And there is always the option of second hand sports equipment.

6. Diarise your activity

Embed your activity as part of your routine, diarise it.  Consider what time of the day you like to exercise.  Set aside time dedicated to your activity.  Embedding activity as part of your routine means it is more likely to become part of your normal routine long term.  Prioritising your activity is an important investment in you and your health.

7. Ask a friend(s) to join you

Research indicates our health habits tend to reflect those we keep company with.  It also indicates that if you exercise with a friend(s) who is also active you are more likely to stick with it as the other person helps keep you accountable.  Kill two birds with one stone, get active and also catch up with a friend.

8. Consider if you need a health check

If you are new to being active or have not been active for a sometime I encourage you to consider whether you need a health check.  It is a key element of good planning.

9. Prepare for small set backs

Developing habits takes time so it is likely that you may find your enthusiasm initially ebbs and flows.  If you have a bad week where life gets busy and you miss a planned sessions, do not lose heart, start the new week with renewed focus to get back on track.  Touch base again with your progress, your goals and the benefits that will come from being more active.

10. Listen to your body

A heavy training program that does include sufficient rest and recovery time can lead to fatigue and a lack of vitality.  Moderate intensity exercise 3-4 times per week for 45 minutes is generally sufficient for a healthy adult.  For those doing high intensity exercise, a healthy adult generally requires 1 day recovery for each day of high intensity exercise.   And a healthy adult also generally requires 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night.  It is during sleep when our body undertakes its maintenance, growth and repair activities

11. Eat a healthy diet

A healthy diet is essential.  Achieving health and wellbeing goals requires a healthy diet and regular active to deliver effective results.  Ensure you adopt a diet you can sustain long term.  Be wary of diets promising fast results, it generally implies a fast rebound to your previous weight.  I believe food is to be enjoyed, I recommend a diet rich in fresh food, lots of variety, which is balanced, promotes moderation and allows the occasional treat.

12. Be your own best coach

Be your own best health coach, this includes being tough but fair with your self-assessment of your commitment to reaching your goal.  Yes it may be challenging, it may take longer than you want to achieve your ultimate goal and you may stumble a little.  However if you have belief and want the benefits enough you can reach your goal.

Good luck.

ciao Jan