While I am a summer girl through and through, spring always brings me a special sense of hope. Days are sunny and longer, birds are chirping, tender leaves are budding, and people are emerging from hibernation to venture out and smell the blooming hyacinths. Every year, I am inspired by these images of new beginnings.
After the yearlong COVID-19 pandemic, this spring feels particularly hopeful and exciting. Being in survival mode, many people (myself included) have let their healthy habits slide. As we begin to see the light at the end of tunnel, how do we bring our health to the forefront of our minds?
All or Nothing
Research continues to show us that regular exercise provides endless benefits. Despite this knowledge, many of us still struggle to stick with an exercise routine. I believe that part of the problem is that we set the bar too high. We aim for perfection and strive to “do it right” within a narrow definition of what counts as exercise. This all-or-nothing approach can be overwhelming and typically does not work long term. For example, until a routine is deeply ingrained, it takes more mental energy to face a planned 40-minute exercise session compared to four 10-minute mini-exercise sessions sprinkled throughout the day. Walking to get the mail, going on a stroll with the grandkids, and riding bikes after dinner are all examples of exercise that can be an enjoyable part of our day. Even if we just include one or two of those 10-minute sessions, that’s more beneficial than planning for a longer workout and then deciding we are not up to the challenge.
Some is Better than None
Today, give yourself permission to reset the bar for progress, not perfection. Will a higher intensity or longer duration result in better outcomes? Absolutely! However, if you do not exercise at all, you miss out on the benefits entirely. Doing some exercise as many days as possible will provide more enjoyment and health benefits than setting exercise expectations at a level you are less likely to incorporate into your daily life. When creating healthy habits, frequency is key.
If you are struggling to start over or to stay motivated, challenge yourself to reframe your perspective on exercise. Put on your exercise gear and do something today that you enjoy- such as a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Even quick spurts of activity are beneficial.
Once you have a solid routine in place, increase your intensity or go for longer. But today, do not worry about the numbers and be gentle with yourself. Remember progress, not perfection. The warm weather, chirping birds, and hyacinths are waiting for you!