MOVE MORE IN 2020: Make exercise a habit rather than a resolution |

MOVE MORE IN 2020: Make exercise a habit rather than a resolution

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As we turn the page to a new year (and a new decade!), many of us will be resolving to improve our lives and our health in various ways. A survey conducted by NPR in January of this year found that 44 percent of American adults make some sort of New Year’s resolution.

The most common? Exercise more!

Improving our health and well-being through more regular activity is the most repeated resolution. Given the many benefits of exercise (both physical and psychological) it is easy to see why it tops the list.

Unfortunately, while the thought is there, the commitment often is not… According to a study from the University of Scranton, around 80 percent of people fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions. In fact, the majority of resolutions are abandoned by Jan. 12.

If you are one of the many hoping to make exercise a regular part of your daily life in 2020, don’t let these statistics discourage you. They key, experts say, is in making habits, rather than resolutions.

“Trying to develop a lifestyle of exercising regularly can be difficult,” says Josh Soria, Rehab Supervisor at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital. “Showing up is the hardest part. There will be times when you just don’t feel like it. Have a plan for those times. Be ready to just lace up your shoes and start. After a few minutes, the body will get into a rhythm and you’ll be glad you started!”

And if gyms aren’t your thing or if you don’t want to pay a gym membership, don’t let that stop you. Soria says those looking to begin a new exercise routine need look no further than right out their front door.

“In Nevada County, we are blessed with many avenues for activity outside of gyms,” Soria say. “Most people who have not been exercising in quite some time will need to start with a low intensity activity that is slowly progressed. This can be as easy as a 10-minute walk on a local trail.”

Soria says initially that short walk should be at a pace that can easily sustain a conversation. Over time, he says the walk can get a little farther and the intensity a little higher.

If you find yourself in need of an indoor option during the cold and wet winter months, Soria says even that can be accomplished on a budget. “Inexpensive treadmills, recumbent bikes, and elliptical machines can readily be found on Craigslist for pretty low cost. Plop down in front of the TV and pedal away for 30 minutes while passing the time in the evening.”

If you’re wondering how much exercise is enough, the American Heart Association recommends two and a half hours total every week of moderate intensity aerobic exercise.

That can include any activity that increases your heart rate – walking, running, cycling, swimming, water walking, water aerobics, hiking, dancing, etc. In addition, continuous activities like pushing a lawnmower or rigorous yardwork also count as aerobic exercise.

Soria says the key is to keep your heart rate up the whole time.

“The goal is to capture the activity in a continuous manner, meaning once started breaks are minimal,” Soria explains. “We need to aim for 30 minutes or longer of continuous activity. Those who are not ready for the full 30 minutes can start with 5- or 10-minute chunks, spread out throughout the day. As they gain stamina the periods of time can increase.”

In addition, Soria encourages everyone to look for small opportunities to add exercise into your daily routine.

— Take the stairs rather than the elevator

— Get up from your desk or the couch every 30 minutes and walk a lap

— Choose the farthest parking spot rather than the closest

“All of these small changes can add up,” Soria says. “Seemingly small choices like these can lead to modest improvements in cardiovascular health and fitness over time.”

For anyone over 50 who hasn’t exercised in several years, Soria says it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking on anything more strenuous than an easy walking program.

And for everyone looking to increase their exercise in 2020, Soria has one more piece of advice.

“Start slow! The body needs time – weeks if not months — to build up its resilience to the increased demands of exercise. Know that any amount of additional exercise is benefiting your health. Whether you are slowly increasing your activity or trying to find more time to exercise, don’t quit just because you don’t immediately reach the ideal goal. Keep working!”

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