"No time to work out." This weak excuse is the most common one used when people are asked why they are not exercising. However, this excuse is just a coverup for something deeper.
According to famed fitness guru Richard Simmons, "We all have our reasons for not exercising, but the reality is, it comes down to time-management and fear."
Typically, negative associations, low self-esteem, lack of enjoyment and motivation are the real culprits behind not exercising, along with fear – fear of embarrassment, fear of getting hurt, and the worst of all, fear of failure. Fear is a tyrant controller of all aspects of our lives if we allow it to be.
Time is one of the most valuable commodities at our disposal if we use it wisely. Family, career, school and other demands continuously take their toll on our schedules, so, it's up to us to weed out tasks that, when weighed against the others, offer nothing towards increasing our health or productivity and seem non-essential in the big picture.
Unfortunately, for some, physical fitness/activity falls into the "non-essential" category. These errant beliefs put the health of these individuals last on their priority list when it should be number one. Their totem-pole of priorities has flipped upside down taking their health with it.
Opting to use their time for tasks that add little to no value to their lives puts what is important, their health, in serious jeopardy. Not only are these individuals compromising their health now, but the sedentary lifestyle they have chosen to adopt will totally affect how healthy they are five to 10 years down the road.
Living in the moment is the key to being happy. However, when it comes to our health, we need to focus not only on what we are doing in the moment but the big picture because what we are doing now, will affect how our future plays out.
The truth is, those that care about their health, now and in the future, find the time to exercise. These smart, health-conscious people don't live in a separate world from us and their schedules can be every bit as hectic and demanding as anyone else's but health is at the top of their priority list, so if something gets "axed" off the schedule, it's something other than their time to exercise. Their perceptions are healthy and therefore their activities are healthy.
Those that axe exercise first when schedules get demanding need to ask themselves: "will I have the time to attend multiple doctors' appointments in the future of my life?" How about the time and money it will take to treat health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart issues and high cholesterol?
Is the time gained now worth giving up the time you will spend tending to disease/health issues later? Are you prepared to spend your senior years, which should be some of the best years of your life, fighting for the health you ignored early on?
If being healthy, active and productive even as a senior means anything at all to you, if playing with your grandchildren in the future of your life is important, then, focus attention on how you spend your time and your list of priorities must be addressed now because these are all setting the table for the "future of your life".
If you are one that has put your health on the backburner in lieu of other less important activities and you are ready to turn this self-destructive programming around, here's a few tips to help:
If you try to tackle too much initially after being a "couch potato" you will not only subject yourself to injury (which will just sideline your efforts even longer) but you will likely get overwhelmed, lose your enthusiasm and quit.
The key is to start slow and build from there. Maybe you will take a walk for 15 minutes (when you would normally give this time to TV). Your body will respond positively, and it won't be long before that walk turns into 30 minutes of "power walking" rather than leisurely walking. When you realise how good your body feels afterward, that is the motivation that will stir you to greater heights.
Turn TV into an activity
We all like to watch a bit of TV, so why not make the best of it when you do. Keep fitness equipment close at hand – kettlebells (for those with room), resistance bands, and free weights are all great choices and exercise while watching your favourite show.
Planks, yoga poses, squats, lunges and pushups can all be done while in front of the screen as well. You don't want to exercise all the time in front of the TV because your exercise really needs to be where you focus your energy in order to get the most out of it.
However, using your TV time wisely (limited of course!) can add to your health rather than distract from it and is a great way to start shifting your life from sedentary to active. If you stick with it, you will feel so good, your next stop just might be the gym.
Choose your thoughts wisely
Negative self-talk contributes nothing but subtracts a lot. Learn to stand guard at your mind so you can edit and allow only the most positive, empowering thoughts to enter. If a negative statement about exercise surfaces such as "today is way too busy for me to exercise", simply rephrase the statement to "I choose to make myself and my health my priority today".
Over time, these positive thought patterns and affirmations will become stronger and all but eliminate the negative Nellie ones.
Tap into emotional support
In other words, find yourself a cheerleader, one that can motivate and encourage you (positive messages only) whenever the need arises. With the internet so close at hand, you don't even have to leave the house to find one because there are plenty of online fitness communities you can join that will happily supply this positive feedback and camaraderie for you.
Exercise early in the day
Let's face it, as the day wears on, so does our energy reserves. Additionally, if we don't exercise early on before the day's activities begin, something will likely try to get in the way and then we must muster all our willpower to move past these obstacles.
By exercising first, we strip away any possibility of other, less important things stealing our exercise time. It also provides us with an enormous amount of energy for the day.
Many very successful people adopt this strategy. Billionaire Richard Branson believes exercise is key to being productive. He begins his day with a run, a swim or game of tennis, and I do not think any of us would argue about his success!
Do not devalue yourself and your future by ignoring the importance of movement/exercise today. Adding exercise to your daily list of activities is the single best productive and long-term health decision you can make for yourself.
As Nike says: "just do it" but what they are really saying is: "love yourself enough to do it!"
• Carolyn Hansen is co-owner of Anytime Fitness.