5 Ways to Make Exercise More Meaningful. There’s a big reason why the average American only gets 17 minutes a day of physical activity, barely half of what is recommended. Many people give excuses for the gap, which usually equates back to some form of “no time”. The reality is it all comes down to one issue – value.
People do things that are important to them. Every day you set priorities, schedule your time and for the most part, follow your “to-do” list. The most important things get done and things you care less about are the most likely to fall off the schedule.
So why does the “typical American” value exercise less than other tasks? My theory is that it has to do with a lack of purpose for exercise. It’s not meaningful. Arguments like “helps manage weight,” “gives you more energy,” and “helps prevent disease” just fall on deaf ears. People know that exercise has its benefits – even that it can help save their life. But it just doesn’t resonate enough with their day-to-day values to become a priority and eventually a habit.
If you talk to people who are committed to exercise, they will tell you a different story than someone who can’t seem to string together any type of regular activity. An avid exerciser needs the workout. They love the challenge. They love the way they feel after. They value the “thinking time” exercise provides. Whatever it is, the reasons for staying active go beyond fitting into a pair of pants. An honest avid exerciser would also tell you that they aren’t always motivated to work out. They take days off and they may even take a break, but they always come back to it. Exercise is more meaningful to them.
If you find yourself getting “average American” activity – around two hours a week or less when it should be four or more hours a week, don’t just settle. You can change… if you want to. All you have to do is find your meaning, your value, your motivation.
Here are five things you can do to make exercise more meaningful:
Come up with a list of reasons for why exercise is important to you. What exactly do you get in return for your investment in exercise.
Take a look at the list and for each item, come up with a deeper meaning. Ask yourself “why do I care about _________”? For example, you might come up with: “I need to exercise because I’m concerned about my health.” But why is that important? “My mom had a heart attack and didn’t have healthy habits and I don’t want that to happen to me.” But why is that important? “Because I have a child I want to be there for as long as possible and a partner who makes me happy beyond belief. I want as much time with them as possible.” Get the idea? For whatever reason, “concern about health” does not carry as much meaning or value as “be with my partner and child as long as possible”. You aren’t just exercising for you. You are exercising for them.
Come up with as many value statements and meaningful statements you can and review that list. These are your anchors – the things that will keep you grounded and focused on making exercise a priority. Like the anchor that keeps a ship from sailing away to “no mans land” in the breeze, your anchors will keep you focused on your goals.
Open your calendar and schedule your workout time every day for the next two weeks. That’s right, every day. I’m saying that because something is bound to come up that will have you bailing on your exercise time. Even with your anchors and new meaningful exercise motivation, you are human. You will phone it in so you can get more sleep, watch TV or spend some time with the family. It’s better to schedule more than you think you will do – and take it off your calendar when you miss one than to schedule what you are used to.
Use your anchors. Whether you write them on post-its, attach them to your workout schedule or just review the list daily, you need reminders for WHY you are doing what you are doing – and skinny jeans just ain’t gonna cut it. If it were that simple, everyone would be getting the exercise they need.
Actually if you look at the data, exercise is actually a poor weight loss strategy. You only think something that superficial should be motivating because that is what American culture says. But it obviously isn’t working. You care about more than weight loss. You just have to find it.
This post was written by guest contributor Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RD, LD, ACSM HFS. Visit her website at: www.rebeccascritchfield.com