We all know the benefits of regular physical activity—increased energy, better cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke and looking more svelte.
But about 80 percent of Americans don’t make exercise a regular habit, and, according to a 2012 American Heart Association website survey, 14 percent say they don’t like exercise.
So how do you overcome an exercise aversion? Mercedes Carnethon, Ph.D., associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, has some tips to help you incorporate exercise into your life—and maybe even learn to like it.
Exercise That Suits You
Find an exercise that best fits your personality, Dr. Carnethon said. If you are social person, do something that engages you socially—take a group exercise class, join a kickball team or walk with a group of friends. Or, if you prefer having time alone, walking or jogging solo might be a better fit for you. Finding a peer groupis the perfect way to connect with others who share your goals, lifestyles, schedules and hobbies.
Try some of these ideas to help you get moving—at home, at work or at play.
Make it a Habit
It can take a little while for something to become a habit, so give yourself the time to create a regular routine. One way is to try to exercise around the same time each day.
“Exercise can become addictive in a positive way,” said Dr. Carnethon, who is also an American Heart Association volunteer. “Once it becomes a habit, you’ll notice when you aren’t doing something.”
Build Exercise Into Your Lifestyle
Be honest with yourself. If you don’t live close to a gym, it may be harder to become a habit for you. Likewise, if you are not a morning person, don’t plan on somehow getting up at the crack of dawn to make a boot camp class.
“The key is building activity into your lifestyle so it is not disruptive,” Dr. Carnethon said.
There are many ways to fit exercise into your life, and it doesn’t mean you have to make a big financial investment.
You can borrow exercise videos from the library or DVR an exercise program. Do weight or resistance training with items around your home (for example, use canned goods as light weights). Walking is great option, as well. The only investment is a good pair of shoes.
Do Bouts of Exercise
It’s OK to break up your physical activity into smaller segments, Dr. Carnethon said. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes a day of exercise most days, but if that sounds overwhelming, try three 10-minute workout sessions.
You could do a quick calisthenics routine when you wake up, take a brief walk after lunch at work and, if you commute with public transportation, get off a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way.
If you miss a day or a workout, don’t worry about it. Everybody struggles once in a while. Just make sure you get back at it the next day.
“It doesn’t take too long to get back on track,” Dr. Carnethon said. “It’s easy to make something a habit again. You will see same benefits before. Any little bit you can fit in will show benefits.”