We know that exercise can help us get and stay healthy. It improves heart health, maintains bone strength, and promotes muscle mass as we age, not to mention the mental benefits it offers. In the ideal world we would exercise everyday. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. And sadly, I see too many people overwhelmed by the pressure to workout. Some are running their body (and mind) to the ground because they believe that more time at the gym is the answer to their weight loss efforts. Some are guilt stricken by their inability to consistently exercise.
Is stress inducing exercise really the answer to weight loss? What amount of exercise do you need to lose weight? Today I am going to answer these questions and just ramble a little bit about exercise.
ditch the quick fix
A tough workout is stress inducing on it’s own. Add in mental stress and guilt to stay on a strict plan and your stress hormones will be high, slowing the weight loss process.
Let's get one thing straight: there is no quick fix to a healthy lifestyle. I don't care what your program or plan promises; fast track weight loss regimens are not the answer. Working out hard everyday from now until New Years is not healthy and it is not sustainable. These plans often lend themselves to the all or nothing approach. You are either "on" (working out and eating right) or you are "off" (doing nothing, eating everything without concern).
Dependence on a strict plan to dictate what you do and when you do it does not allow you to learn what your body is asking for or needs at any given time. Building a healthy lifestyle has to go beyond on and off days. It is about living the healthiest life that you can, and the healthiest life that you want to live. Don’t let the pressure of quick fix programs create negative and unhealthy attitude towards exercise. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, it is not worth your time.
focus on what you like
When you think about exercise what do you think about? Running a few miles? Taking an exercise class at the gym? Going through a weight lifting routine?
In truth, exercise does not require a gym membership.
I read this awesome article last week about evaluating your thoughts in order to be happier. Here was my favorite part:
Makes sense doesn't it?
Some depend on the mental and physical benefits of a tough workout, and some really just don't like it. If you are one of those people I am here to tell you - it is okay. If you feel trapped in a workout plan that is demanding more time and energy than you have, or your workout plan has you filled with dread, then I beg you to stop.
Instead, focus on living an active lifestyle. You might not consider walking exercise, but it is! In fact, it is my choice of weekend physical activity. Ever spend an hour cleaning the house and find yourself sweating? I know I have. Guess what, that is physical activity! Put on some music (we like Van Morrison at my house) and you have your own workout filled with stair climbs (and vacuums)...I'm serious!
Let's work to change our mindset and stop guilt tripping and stressing over the exercise we "should" be doing. Find the activity that works for you, not an activity that stresses you. It is important to get your attitude about exercise right, because exercise isn't everything.
eat real food
When I was starting this blog I debated including a fitness page, but I decided against it. I realized that I wanted to focus on real food, because exercise should complement your diet, not make up for it.
Did you know that when it comes to weight loss, what you eat has more impact than what you do? Quick fix plans tend to put exercise and diet together, but they don't need to be. In fact, making too many changes at once can make it more difficult to make changes stick. Pick one thing; make it a habit, and then build on it. If you only have a little bit of energy and focus to give, then eating habits should be first! Like they say:
"you can't out train a bad diet"
Focus on implementing more real foods into your life. One of my first posts covered how to do this. Changing the quality of food you eat helps you feel good which makes it easier to increase your daily physical activity. If you already love your exercise routine then check out my fueling exercise posts (here and here).
This mentality, that exercise makes or breaks you, is one that I still struggle to suppress. Last week I had a killer workout only to find myself plagued with some serious knee pain the next morning. First, I panicked, what was I going to do if I couldn't exercise? Then, I regrouped and remembered; not exercising was not going to ruin me. I consulted my physical therapist in-training sister (who has some magical healing powers)- she gave me stretches and simple strengthening exercises. Instead of avoiding the gym out of frustration (which I have been known to do when I am injured) I focused on stretching and took it easy. Setting this time aside for myself still helped me take a much-needed mental break without hurting myself further. A full week later and I am feeling almost back to 100%. This is the closest I have come to achieving the attitude I strive to have towards my fitness: do what you can.
The purpose of this post was not to convince you that you don’t need to get active. It was to remind you that we all live busy lives, but if we focus on moving and living actively in a way that we enjoy then we can have time for other things that are important to us. Get active with an activity that you enjoy and eat real food; these re the keys to improving mental and physical health.
What is are your thoughts on exercise?
How do you get yourself moving everyday?
What physical activities help you escape and relax without pressure or stress?
Til next time...