For decades there has been an emphasis on physical benefits of exercise, (e,g., effectiveness in preventing chronic deceases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes). In more recent decades new studies have focused on physical activity's psychological benefits and its contribution to mental fitness (e.g., general well-being, higher levels of positive mood, decreased levels of depression and anxiety). Still, being informed about the benefits of physical activity does not always inspire us to make it a part of our routines. In fact, it may even overwhelm us.
If physical activity seems overwhelming to you, then you are not alone. Many of us get lost in our busy schedules, and adding exercise seems like a burden. However, with some effort, this frame of mind can easily be altered. Here are some tips and tricks to make exercise less overwhelming.
1) Frame physical activity as fun.
Just shifting the way we perceive physical activity, can have a huge impact on our willingness to partake. Viewing physical activity as a chore, or another to-do on the list, causes it to be perceived as a negative experience. However, when we view physical activity as something that is fun, and become excited about all the benefits it can have it can make the exercise less overwhelming. We will become much more likely to participate it in, and, better yet, we are more likely to enjoy it!
In fact studies show those who mentally label physical activity as fun, are less likely to search for unhealthy food as a reward afterwards. This emphasizes how powerful our thought processes can be! Next time you feel like you have to go to the gym, actively change your perception. Instead think: “I am so happy I get to go to the gym and have some me time!” Similarly, next time you are going for a run, try labelling it as a “fun run”. This can make all the difference in the world in making exercise less overwhelming.
2) Find a workout buddy!
Having company while exercising can be incredibly motivating. Having a work out buddy also turns physical activity into a form of social interaction, making it harder to cancel on plans to exercise. After all, we usually try to avoid disappointing other people. By having a work out buddy, we are also much more likely to gain encouragement and positive reinforcement for accomplishments, as someone else is aware of our routine and progress. If having a work out buddy is not possible, due to conflicting schedules or a desire to exercise alone, try having someone keep track of your exercise routines.
One study, conducted by Stanford University, found that when participants received a phone call from another person, inquiring about how much exercise they had performed, their exercise levels increased by an average of 78%. Again, having someone who is a aware of our progress allows us to be accountable, gain recognition, and motivates us to do our best! This is another great way to make exercise less overwhelming and increase your participation!
3) Choose the right environment.
If indoor activities at the gym cause you to feel overwhelmed or anxious, then there are other environments you can try! Running or even walking outdoors, alongside beautiful scenery, may help in motivating us to be more physically active. In fact, one study found that exercising outdoors was associated with higher positive engagement, greater feelings of revitalization, and increased energy levels! Exercising in natural environments was also linked to decreased negative emotions such as anger, tension and depression, in participants! Moreover, after engaging in outdoor exercise, participants reported a greater intent to repeat this same activity in the future!
By moving it outside you can make exercise less overwhelming! While these are fascinating findings, remember that preferences vary from person to person. Give different environments a chance to see which work best for you!
4) Start light.
If you are just beginning to add physical activity into your lifestyle, then it is best to start off light. Taking on too much, or going too hard at the gym, is an easy way to feel overwhelmed and sore. It can cause us to feel frustrated when we cannot do what we hope. This often causes us to give up early. Instead, try setting goals that are realistic, and be patient with yourself when trying to reach them. Everything takes time; with hard work and perseverance, you can always reach your goals.
5) Do physical activities that are right for you.
Many people think of exercise and physical activity as something that is a burden, or just boring. The truth is that many people think this way because they fail to realize the variety of activities available. If running and weights aren’t for you, there are many other physical activities you can try. Some of these include dancing (e.g., zumba, barre), sports (e.g., soccer, badminton), yoga, spinning, or swimming. When we do what we enjoy, physical activity becomes less of a burden, and more of a fun hobby.
So the next time you feel overwhelmed about “having” to be physically active, take a deep breath and remember that you do not have to feel this way. Only you can change how you feel, and hopefully these tips will help you do so!
Remember: “Life does not require that we be the best, only that we try our best.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.