It’s that time again! Your New Year’s “get fit” resolution is upon you. We know what usually happens: You pledge to incorporate exercise into your daily regimen and embark on a fitness journey. The first few days you start strong, getting your workouts in and feeling great. This could be your year!
And then… your progress begins to diminish. You find yourself struggling to carve out time to work out, and you can’t scrounge up any motivation. Exercise becomes a rarity and might even drop off your schedule for good. By next December, you’re ready to start the cycle all over again.
Why does this happen? Unfortunately, sticking to a fitness routine is no easy feat. Like any goal that involves forming a new habit, it requires us to change the habits we already have. And pre-existing habits, like not exercising, are all the more difficult to break because of their passivity.
But however hard it may seem, it’s not impossible to make exercise a regular part of your life. Once you take the time to understand your barriers to success and how you can overcome them, you’ll be on your way to a healthier lifestyle.
The Barriers to Success
Here’s a secret: There’s no one answer for why it’s so hard to exercise regularly. More often than not, there’s more than one thing standing in your way.
Two of the biggest challenges women face are low self-esteem and a lack of motivation. Data from the Centers for Disease Control shows that women are less likely than men to get enough exercise, which could be due in part to feelings of intimidation at the gym. Women also report having doubts about their ability to succeed, and feeling guilty when they take time for themselves.
Another extremely common problem is lack of time. Women who work full-time jobs, take care of children and other loved ones, and perform household duties are less likely to find enough space in their schedules for exercise. Lack of time can also be related to lack of money, as women with lower incomes are less likely to find the time for exercise and less likely to have a gym membership or exercise equipment at home.
In addition, many women suffer from chronic health problems that can prevent them from exercising. This often discourages them from trying any form of physical activity, for fear that they could worsen symptoms or do further damage to inflamed joints or sore muscles.
Overcoming Your Barriers
We know that overcoming all these barriers to regular exercise is easier said than done. So, let’s find solutions that tackle more than one challenge at a time!
If you struggle with low self-esteem and lack of money: Try working out at home. This may ease your self-consciousness and allow you to explore different exercise options. YouTube hosts a wide range of free workout routines, from beginner to advanced, which require little to no equipment. There are also several free fitness apps that can help you get started, such as Yoga for Beginners, Simply Yoga, or Daily Workouts Fitness Trainer. (Note that many fitness routines on the Daily Workouts app are free, but some are paid.)
If you struggle to find the time or the motivation: Start small with something easy. A 10-minute stretch is an excellent way to start your morning and end your evening, or to break up the time you spend sitting throughout the day. Stretching can also reduce joint, muscle, and back pain, according to Harvard Medical School.
If you have a chronic health condition that limits your ability to exercise: you might still be able to perform certain activities. Talk to your doctor about appropriate forms of exercise; some physical activities may even be therapeutic. For instance, many adults with arthritis use water exercises to ease joint pain. Walking, dancing, and other forms of low-impact movement may also work for you.
Another way to build your motivation, gain confidence, and save money is to join a fitness community, or work out with a friend. Facebook hosts a wide range of fitness groups that can help inspire and support you, as well as giving you fitness ideas. According to the Centers for Disease Control, working out with another person can help you remain consistent and motivated. For now, socially distanced walks outside or virtual exercise sessions may be your best options for partner workouts.
5 Keys to Making Exercise a Habit
Once you get into the exercise habit, positive reinforcement can help you overcome any roadblocks that pop up and stay in the swing of it. Here are some things to remember:
- Stay upbeat. Thinking about exercise in a positive light will make you want to return to it. If you find yourself thinking negatively about exercise, remind yourself of all the benefits it can bring, from mood improvement to better physical health. If you find yourself feeling guilty, remind yourself that you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of others.
- Share your successes. Whether you update your Facebook status or tell just one close friend, sharing with others can help you get the positive reinforcement you need to keep going. You will also hold yourself accountable, as your friends won’t want you to quit.
- Be kind to yourself. If you were unable to make it through a whole routine, congratulate yourself on what you did accomplish. If you miss a few days or even a few weeks, forgive yourself and get back on the wagon.
- Thank your body after every workout. Give yourself a (sweaty) hug! This small gesture can do wonders for your self-esteem.
- Have fun! If you enjoy exercising, you’re more likely to make it part of your daily routine. Don’t force yourself to try out more difficult activities until you feel ready, physically and mentally.
Above all, remember that taking time to exercise is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Your body is perfect, just as it is. Now get it moving!