Exercise… we all know it is good for us but are we doing enough and why?

According to a recent YouGov survey, it has been reported that on average, 27% of Britons are not carrying out even a 30 minute exercise session per week. Additionally, studies at the University of Essex have revealed that only 5% of people aged 19-64 are meeting England’s weekly strength training guidelines. The NHS suggests that we undertake two and a half hours of moderate-intensity exercise a week, or one and a quarter hours of vigorous-intensity activity.

With the cost of living increasing and many of us leading busy lives, it is understandable that such a large proportion of the population are not able to reach the suggested guidelines for exercise. In Britain, the average person works 36.6 hours a week, spends 5 hours commuting to and from work and 26.6 hours on household chores. In fact, a survey showed that 40% feel as though they have only 1-2 hours of leisure time a day.

Furthermore, studies have indicated limited free time, low levels of motivation, fear of falling, cost, transportation, pain, and lack of enjoyment are the biggest barriers to exercise. Additionally, even when people start an exercise plan, participation is generally not maintained in the long term.

How can we increase adherence to exercise?

There are a few ways to improve adherence:

  1. Establish clear goals
  2. Understanding why exercise is beneficial
  3. Keep your chosen exercises simple and fun

The biggest reason for people not sticking with exercise is that quite simply, they do not enjoy it!

The remainder of this blog post will concentrate on some tips on how to make physical activity fun and to stay motivated. Let us take the “ugh” feeling out of exercise and focus on the way we can enjoy movement in all its forms.

How to make movement more enjoyable and easier to stick to in the long-term:

  1. Set goals- Whether it be a personal goal to improve your health, tracking your improvement of strength in an app or signing up for an event such as a run for charity; watching yourself tick off mile stones and reaching the goals you have set for yourself is great for self-esteem and self-fulfilment. Intrinsic goals specifically (goals that are internally derived and fulfil your own satisfaction) improve engagement with an activity.
  2. Group exercise- Playful physical activity enjoyed with friends or family has been shown to increase adherence and leads to better adaptive coping strategies and less perceived stress. You can also join a class which is a brilliant way to try something new and also meet new people. Additionally, it helps with accountability and is a section of your day or week dedicated to some “you time”.
  3. Add some entertainment- Use the time you are exercising to listen to a podcast you haven’t had time to listen to or enjoy some music. You could even watch a film if you like to use an exercise bike for example.
  4. Make it a game and embrace your inner child- With a multitude of things to pick from like riding a bike, ice skating, playing tag with your kids, dancing around the kitchen to music, crazy golf, bowling and Wii sport etc. choosing something fun will be a great opportunity to get moving as well as letting down your hair.
  5. Reward yourself- You should reward yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone, trying something new, forming new habits and sticking with your chosen activities. Go for a coffee after your yoga class or perhaps after carrying out your activity for a given amount of time, treat yourself to a massage for example, or something you have wanted for a while. This will not only be a well-deserved reward, but it will also help motivate you, create a routine and help associate physical activity with positive emotions.

In summary, whilst choosing a form of movement to add into your week, remember it is important that you choose something you enjoy. As previously mentioned, in a world where we do not always have as much time as we would like to put aside for exercise, we might as well pick something that helps us fulfil our physical health requirements as well as positively impact our mental and social wellbeing.

By Jennifer Barr

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