Two adults walk outside together. They both hold yoga mats.
Get moving with a friend, so you can keep one another on track. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Starting and sticking with an exercise routine can be very rewarding.

Exercise brings a sense of accomplishment but provides many health benefits, too.

Finding the motivation to begin exercising and keep exercising can be challenging.

Don’t let past experiences, competing priorities and unrealistic expectations get in the way of leading an active lifestyle.

You’re worth it!

  • Taking care of yourself first is vital in the many roles life has for you (partner, parent, friend and co-worker). It is not selfish to care for you, it’s necessary. Exercise can provide the stamina and stress relief to make you happier and more effective in your roles. Still worried about taking time for you? Multitask fitness and friendships by finding a walking buddy or an exercise partner.
  • Is your health one of your top priorities? If not, this could keep you from starting and sticking with exercise. Until you place a high value on health and the many benefits of a physically active lifestyle, your efforts will probably fall short. People make time for things that are important to them. Be honest. Where do health and a physically active lifestyle fit into your value system?

Know the benefits

  • Most results from exercise are not instantaneous, so set realistic expectations. It can take several weeks before seeing improvements in strength, endurance and weight loss. Don’t use the scale as your only measure of progress and remember that healthy weight loss should not exceed 2 pounds per week. Embrace the idea that exercise is about more than losing weight and changing physique. Exercise can help you in many ways more than what is seen from the outside. Exercise can help improve physical function, mental health and can help reduce chronic disease risk for conditions like cardiovascular disease and cancer. Widen your perception to all of the health benefits of physical activity.
  • Immediate results from exercise include positive mental outlook. Even short bouts of activity can reduce stress and improve mood through the release of endorphins in the brain. Compare how you feel mentally before and after physical activity. When you connect exercise with these positive feelings you start to realize an immediate benefit. In addition, long-term physical activity can cut your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Embrace your successes

  • Think about what went well and your successes. Have you tried exercise in the past but fell short by not meeting your goals? While we tend to focus on failures, if your goal was to exercise five days a week and you consistently made it three days, identify what went right to make that happen. It is also important to spend time deciding if past exercise goals were too ambitious. You may need to scale back expectations to meet other demands in your life.

Be intentional about moving

  • Figure out ways that you can get shorter bursts of activity in if your schedule doesn’t allow for a full workout. Even short bouts of activity carry many benefits:
    • Are you waiting for the kids to finish practice? Take a lap or two around the field.
    • Do you have an extra 10 minutes at lunch? Try walking the stairs or hitting the street with a co-worker.
    • Do you need to refresh your neck and back after a day at the computer? Keep resistance bands in your desk drawer or tighten up your core by trading your chair for a stability ball.
  • Avoid long periods of sitting by standing up and moving throughout the day. Standing can boost metabolism, increase circulation and improve lipids. Standing for five minutes of every hour is related to healthier cells. Movement sends more oxygen to the muscles and brain, which can improve productivity. Try talking on the phone, folding laundry, or doing computer work standing up.