If you were told there was a new drug on the market that could help you live longer, make you feel better mentally and physically, help you lose weight, improve your sleep, increase your confidence, give you a better sex life and make you more efficient at work – all without negative side effects – would you not want to be the first to try this drug?
Actually, this "drug" does exist. It comes not as a pill but in the form of exercise. And even though we all know about the benefits of physical activity, too many of us fall back on the excuse, "I don't have enough time."
Here are some simple steps to help even the busiest person fit in exercise:
Make an appointment with your body This is the most important strategy for success. Schedule it into your calender and show up for the appointment. It is that simple. Reserve the most convenient time slot each day for working out and don't let anything else interfere. Treat it like a work meeting.
Make it fun Choosing activities you enjoy will help you stick with your program. Walking, running, cycling, yoga, weights, martial arts, dance, various fitness classes – the options are endless. The key to being fit is consistency and you are more likely to be consistent if you do what you find fun.
Join a group In a group fitness class, your instructor will do all the thinking for you and lead you through a balanced routine designed to be safe and challenging. If you feel like slacking, being with a motivating instructor and having others around can help keep you on target. In addition, the group exercise class can boost your social life. A number of my group members have become great friends.
Get help with an exercise program If you are having difficulty starting or sticking to a program, hiring a trainer can go a long way. Having booked appointments may increase your commitment because someone is expecting you to show up (plus, you're paying for it). Once your habits become consistent, you will rely less on this outside person and may only need help changing your program once in a while.
Change it up If you are currently exercising but need to up your game, try something totally different from your current routine to give the body stimulation. Choosing an activity you are not used to will boost your metabolism and overall exercise response. This type of change can be incredibly motivating and inspiring.
A little is better than none Exercise doesn't have to be done all in one session but can be broken down into bits and pieces throughout the day. For example, if one of your goals is to strengthen and firm up your legs and bum, try taking stairs instead of the elevator. You will burn calories and strengthen the quads, glutes and calves. Instead of browsing the Internet during your lunch, go for a brisk walk.
Track success Make a note in your calender every time you work out and add up your sessions or total minutes at the end of every week, month and year. Measuring your success and progress will help you stay on track and make you realize when you've slipped. Remember, not everyone responds to exercise the same way – you may not always see weight loss. As you gain muscle and increase lean body mass, the number on the scale may not change because muscle weighs more than fat. Focus on how good you feel.
Go public If you let the important people in your life know what you are up to they might even join you. Telling people will also help keep you accountable and you will be more likely stay on track.
Think ahead Exercise requires planning. Be prepared. This decreases the likelihood of "putting off" your exercise session. For example, if you intend to exercise when you get up in the morning, have your exercise clothing out and ready to go. If you plan on working out when you get home from work, then change immediately into your exercise clothing to eliminate the chances of not doing it.
Use your weekends Remember that it only takes three to five days a week to have an effective, results-producing exercise program. Use your weekends to fit it all in, especially if your schedule is more flexible during this time. Fitting in just one or two workouts during the work week isn't as daunting.
Make it social time Exercising with others can help motivate and give you that push. Plus, working out with a friend or family member can help build healthy relationships. When you make plans with friends or family, consider doing something active – like going for a walk or a hike. You will find your motivation to be fit is likely contagious.
Health Advisor contributors share their knowledge in fields ranging from fitness to psychology, pediatrics to aging.
Lori Kirwan is the Group Fitness Director at Hard Candy Fitness in Toronto with a Ph.D in exercise physiology from University of Toronto. In her current work at the Madonna-owned Hardcandyfitnesstoronto.com in Toronto, Kirwan has developed her own signature classes including high-intensity training (Tornado), athletic reformer training (Transformer) and a fun, challenging power yoga to the heavy beats of electronic music (Electric Yoga). You can follow her on Twitter at @lorihardcandy