Most of us know we need to be more physically active than we are. We hear about the health benefits of a physically active life time and time again—weight loss, chronic disease prevention, stress management, and overall improved quality of life. We buy gym memberships and join fitness classes in an effort to exercise more.
But have you ever looked at how your very lifestyle sets you up to be a couch potato? Understanding how your environment sets you up to be success-or fail- is the key to designing a lifestyle that makes being physically active the default option…
1. Taking the Car is the Default Option
Owning and using a car can be essential to some individuals’ lives. You might need it to get to work or as a way of carting home your groceries. But ask yourself this—when you talk to your friends or family members about going somewhere, do you just assume you will drive there? Do you ever pause to think how you could get there by walking or biking?
Walking instead of driving when possible is one of the simplest, but most effective things we can do to build our lives around physical activity, instead of just squeezing it in when possible. The next time you plan an outing, ask yourself first how you could do it (or at least parts of it) without the car. Can you choose a restaurant that’s close enough to walk to? Could you plan to drive downtown and then complete your errands on foot?
2. You’re Kind of Obsessed with Your Smart Phone
Your obsession with staying connected to social media or work via your smart phone, tablet, laptop, or other technological device can conflict and compete with being more physically active. Think about it—how easy is it to draft long e-mails or check Facebook while also walking briskly? If you’ve designed your lifestyle around staying connected, there is a good chance you’ve also designed your life in a way that doesn’t prioritize staying active.
To remedy this, set yourself up for success by using one of two strategies. You can either set limits on your use of those devices (designated shut off times that you stick to) or find a way to stay connected with people in more physically active ways, such as walking meetings with co-workers. You might be surprised to find how much extra time you have to be active when you change your relationship with your technological devices.
3. You Associate Relaxing with Sedentary Time
Everyone knows the feeling of just wanting to relax after a busy or stressful day. If you think relaxing is synonymous with putting your feet up and becoming a couch potato, you’ve automatically programmed leisure time to be time spent inactive. While there’s nothing wrong with curling up on the couch sometimes, using it daily as a way to unwind reduces opportunities to fit physical activity in.
Staying active and relaxing doesn’t need to be an oxymoron. Gentle exercise like a yoga class or some casual laps around the pool provide the benefits of being active while still giving your mind a chance to unwind. Try replacing, at least two times a week, those times you would be likely unwind on the couch with an exercise of your choice. After a few short sessions, you might start to feel just as relaxed, if not more, than the times you couch surf.
4. You’re Chronically Overcommitted
The quickest way to make it impossible to stay active is chronically overcommitting your time. Do you find yourself to agreeing to events with friends, helping out family members, or taking on overtime hours at work on a regular basis? Do you ever pause and consider, before agreeing to more and more for others, how that will affect one of the most precious resources you have- personal time?
Being a selfless friend, family member, or employee can be absolutely honorable and sometimes necessary. However, so is knowing how to say “no” in order to carve out personal time to recharge your batteries. After all, this creates the best version of yourself to give to those around you. This includes viewing time to be active as an essential part of your life and vital to ensuring you have the energy, health, and enthusiasm to take on life’s challenges.
5. You Don’t Believe You Can
Believing that you can’t squeeze in physical activity in your daily life sets yourself up to make choices that reinforce that belief. For example, you don’t think you can find time to walk before work, so you set your alarm to the latest possible time to get up, reinforcing to yourself that you need that time to sleep and don’t have time to walk.
Using the power of your mind to create success takes time, try using a back chaining technique to break steps down into manageable pieces. Start by imagining the end goal—like walking before work—and then move to the step before that, by setting your alarm earlier. Get used to waking up earlier and then add other steps, such as making your lunch the night before and setting out your runners. Before you know it, you will have built physical activity into your life through positive thinking.