UHA Worksite Wellness

Developing an Exercise Routine to Boost Your Health and Well-Being

Written by Valerie Davison on January 16, 2015. Posted in Activity & Exercise

Starting and sticking with an exercise routine or regular physical activity can be a challenge for many people, and especially for people struggling with their health and well-being. These steps can help:

• Get professional support. If you are being treated by a physician or other healthcare provider, talk to them about your exercise plans to make sure you are being realistic and making healthy choices that fit into your overall treatment plan.

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•Set small, reasonable goals. Like anything else, an exercise program has more likelihood of success when you set small but increasing goals. People who try to run a mile after being couch potatoes for years usually end up discouraged and often quit before they really get started. Take baby steps that are realistic—and gradually increase your physical activity.

• Stop thinking of exercise as a chore. Instead, focus on how great you feel after exercise, and schedule your exercise on your calendar. Start looking for 5-10 minute pockets in your day when you can add in extra steps or stretches. Think of exercise as another tool in your toolbox that is helping you feel better.

• Analyze your barriers. Figure out what's stopping you from exercising and find ways to overcome those barriers. If you feel self-conscious, for instance, you may want to exercise at home. Do you need a partner for accountability? Do you need to keep your costs low? Analyze your barriers and you can almost always find a solution that fits your needs.

• Get right back on the horse. Everyone gets out of good habits once in a while, but the key is to get back into exercise as soon as possible. There’s no need to be down on yourself for not exercising for a few days—instead, you will feel better physically and emotionally if you go for a brisk walk.

• Find an exercise routine you love. Mayo Clinic studies show that regular exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits, too. It can help you:

1. Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.

2. Take your mind off worries. Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.

3. Get more social interaction. Exercise and physical activity may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.

4. Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping anxiety or depression will go away on its own can lead to worsening symptoms.

So make sure you choose activities you enjoy. Think about what activities you’re most likely to do and when you would prefer to do them. Would you like to go dancing on Saturday night with a friend? Swim lengths on your lunch hour? Weed your garden in the evening? Build activities you enjoy into your routine and you’re more likely to stick to it.

When approaching any kind of exercise routine, it’s helpful to consider principles of frequency (how often), intensity (how hard), time (when and how long), type, and enjoyment. Add these principles into your routine and you will soon notice improvement in your mood and fitness.

Valerie Davison

Workplace Wellness Manager; Vice Chair, Hawaii Health at Work Alliance (HH@WA) Board of Directors

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