Even though exercise is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your overall health, according to the CDC, more than half of the U.S. population is not doing it enough. When you work behind a desk almost every day and feel too run-down and tired to do anything physical in your downtime, it can become increasingly difficult to get up and get moving.
A lack of exercise can be associated with several serious health effects, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Even knowing the health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle, it can still be hard to find the motivation to start working out regularly. Rest assured, once you get started, momentum will carry you to your goals. This article will provide you with the information needed to easily fit exercise into your lifestyle, even when it feels impossible.
What Is a Sedentary Lifestyle?
A sedentary lifestyle involves little to no physical activity whatsoever. There are many different reasons why a person may live an inactive lifestyle, including personal choices and work environment. For example, many people work at a job where they sit at a desk all day, and they can leave this job feeling tired even though they didn’t do much physical activity throughout the whole day.
Living an inactive lifestyle puts a person at risk of developing many health conditions with adverse effects, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and even premature death. Even if you’re feeling “stuck” in your current lifestyle, it may be easier than you realize to turn your health around and start working out regularly. Fitting exercise into your daily routine may be as easy as getting up off the couch while you’re watching TV in the evening or waking up 30 minutes early to do some stretching in the morning.
Understanding What Exercise Can Do for Your Body
One way to get motivated is to take the time to wrap your head around all the benefits that exercise can offer your body. Some benefits that you can expect from exercising include the following:
- Improvement in physical strength
- Better balance and coordination
- Stronger endurance
- Weight loss and maintaining your body weight
- Lowering your risk of chronic diseases
- Improving your physical activity levels and energy
- Boosting your mood
- Lowering stress and anxiety levels
- Improving sleep quality, creativity, cognitive function and overall mental health
So basically, the benefits are invaluable. Are you ready to get moving yet?
Finding an Exercise Routine That Works for You
Many inactive people feel like they don’t know where to begin when it comes to starting a workout routine, but thankfully, you don’t need to put in several hours per day. You have to figure out what type of workout routine works well for you by considering some factors. Here are some things to think about before you start an exercise plan:
- Do you have access to a gym?
- Do you live in a walkable area?
- Is the weather permitting for outdoor exercise?
- Are there movement activities that you actually enjoy doing, such as dancing, yoga classes, playing tennis or basketball or going on walks with friends?
It’s not always easy to find a workout routine that works for you, but once you do figure out what works, it will make it easier to maintain consistency since you’ll know what types of activities you actually want to do. Start with small goals and work your way up. This may mean daily stretching and walking in the beginning. Slowly increase the intensity and amount of time spent working out as you go.
It is also beneficial to emphasize mindfulness when starting a workout routine. Take time to remind yourself why you are exercising, and think about gratitude by being thankful that you have the ability to work out at all. Focus on your breath when physical activity feels hard. At the end of a tough workout, spend some time reveling in how accomplished you feel. This will help you feel ready to do it all over again the next day.
Fitting Exercise into Your Daily Routine
One of the most common reasons why people don’t exercise is because they don’t feel like they have the time. You have to make the time if you want to start an effective workout plan. You’ll have to spend some time looking over your schedule to figure out what times of day are actually realistic for you to work out. You may have to make adjustments to an especially busy schedule, but your hard work will pay off.
This might mean getting additional childcare, waking up an hour earlier or cutting other activities out of your schedule that no longer serve you. These types of sacrifices can be difficult, but they are ultimately worth it in the end.
Putting together a consistent workout routine that fits into your daily schedule is an effective approach. Look at a calendar and pick times of the week that work, and write them down. Hold yourself to these goals and keep in mind that you will feel good after you’re done. Always focus on that after-workout feeling to motivate you.
It is okay if you go to work out and don’t complete the goal you set yourself up for that day. Your workout times should simply be dedicated to moving. If you’re not feeling up to an extensive workout, do a light workout or just stretch. Regardless of whether you do the actual workout that you planned on for that day, if you got moving at all, then consider it an accomplishment. It may only mean using 10 minutes a day to focus on your physical health.
The Challenges of Incorporating Exercise into a Sedentary Lifestyle
Incorporating exercise into a sedentary lifestyle isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible either. If you haven’t exercised in a long time, then start with small goals. Carve out 10 to 15 minutes a day to stretch or do some light workouts. With time, your tolerance for daily activity will improve. Every small activity creates momentum, and it’s all about holding on to that momentum to see real results.
Small habits make a difference — the key is consistency. Start wherever you’re at and build the length and difficulty of your routine at a rate that you feel comfortable with. Here are some tips to go from sedentary to active:
- Start with 10 to 15 minutes a day of physical activity.
- Every two to four weeks (or as you feel capable), lengthen your workout sessions by five minutes.
- Keep doing so until you get to the point of 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.
7 Tips for Staying Motivated and Avoiding Burnout
One of the most straightforward ways to stay healthy is to exercise regularly, but keeping up with exercise habits is easier said than done. The body has its limits, so always pay attention to how you’re feeling and try not to overdo it.
If you overextend yourself, the body and mind can become exhausted and show some symptoms like soreness, fatigue and poor performance. It is all about finding the balance between keeping the body moving and not going too far.
You need a certain level of self-awareness in order to stay mindful of your body’s limits, and always remember the importance of rest and recovery in between each workout. Here are some tips you can follow to stay active:
- Setting realistic goals
- Making time for recovery
- Keeping track of your training
- Eating and sleeping well
- Maintaining momentum
- Remembering why you’re doing it
Set Realistic Goals
Just like how Rome wasn’t built in a day, you can’t expect to go from sedentary to marathon running overnight. Start with small goals and hold yourself accountable for them. This way, you can actually see yourself crossing goals off your list. If you set huge goals for yourself, you may be so overwhelmed by them that you get stuck and never achieve them. Here are some easy goals to start with if you haven’t exercised in a long time (or ever):
- Stretch every day. Stretching doesn’t require any degree of expertise or physical strength (and not to mention, it feels good). It also helps to improve flexibility and prepare yourself for future workouts.
- Take a break during your workday to do a quick walk around your workplace.
- Get off the couch in the evening and do some light exercise or stretching while watching TV or enjoying screen time.
- When driving to a store or appointment, park farther away than necessary so that you’re intentionally walking a little extra.
- Start with 10 minutes a day of physical activity and slowly work your way up.
Make Time for Recovery
You will have a hard time growing in your physical fitness if you do not emphasize rest and recovery. Once you do get moving and actually do a true workout, you’ll need to take steps to recover. This may mean icing sore muscles or stretching more than you had planned.
If you do a more strenuous workout than usual, you will probably want to use the following day as a “rest” day in which you do lighter work and focus on stretching and recovery. This will give your body time to recharge so that you can do another hard workout again soon.
Keep Track of Your Training
Watching yourself improve and grow can serve as some of the greatest motivation to keep going. Try tracking your training by using a fitness band or exercise app on your phone. If you’re going on walks or jogs, you can track your distance and time. You can also pay attention to how many steps you take each day to make sure that you’re walking enough.
As you continue on your path to physical fitness, you will feel your body improving. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean every subsequent workout will get better and better — the path to growth isn’t always linear. You may have days when working out feels incredibly hard and then it gets easier again and so on. It is important to push through the challenges and discomfort in order to grow.
Eat and Sleep Well
In addition to giving your muscles time to rest and recover between workouts, you need to give your whole body time to rest and recover. This means eating enough and sleeping well, both of which go hand in hand.
Focus on replacing the calories you burn with healthy, well-rounded meals — don’t indulge in an unhealthy processed meal just because you’ve done one workout. You’ll soon find that there are plenty of delicious and healthy food options that can help you stay fed while also maintaining your health and wellness goals.
Sleep is essential for proper recovery. Practice good sleep hygiene by going to bed at a reasonable hour and maintaining a healthy sleep environment. This means sleeping in a dark room that is free from background noise and disruptive factors.
Momentum is the key to achieving your goals and sticking to an active lifestyle. Any small feat will help maintain momentum. If you’re feeling stuck, just get up and do something small and manageable. This may mean taking a walk to your mailbox and back or doing some light stretching. Anything that you achieve will further increase your momentum to keep achieving subsequent tasks.
Remember Why You’re Doing It
Focusing on your “why” can help you stay motivated to achieve your goals. Working out helps to strengthen your heart and prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, ultimately leading to a longer and happier life.
The healthier you can be, the more time you can spend with the ones you love. The better you feel, the more you can show up for those around you as your best self. You can also set a positive example for the people in your life who look up to you, such as your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
If you want to maintain good health, it is essential to take time to exercise and get in good physical and mental health. Getting out of a sedentary slump will be one of the best decisions you make for yourself, since it will increase your quality of life and help you get to the point of feeling your absolute best. Start with small steps and hang on to the momentum. With time, you’ll start to see and feel results that can help increase your motivation to get moving and knock your goals out of the park.