We hear all the time that exercise has many health benefits, and researchers work continually to measure and explain how physical activity benefits our bodies and our minds.
But, as a population, we just can’t seem to get in the activity groove. Almost one-quarter of Canadians–adults and children–are overweight or obese and the number continues to rise every year.
So how do we change things? Dr. Mike Evans seems to have hit a sweet spot with his viral online video, “23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?”
This video strips physical activity down to bare bones. You don’t need to swelter at the gym, you don’t need muscles like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and you don’t need the training schedule of an Olympian.
You just need to keep moving forward–anyway you can.
“When you exercise, do it like you mean it,” said Dr. Dimitrios Vergidis, chief of Oncology at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, who fully supports the power of exercise.
“Choose something you enjoy and stay with it.”
- Keep up the momentum
Focus on making exercise a habit by planning your activity for the week and measure success by showing up.
Treat yourself with a new pair of running shoes, a paddling jacket, or spend a few bucks and bump up your playlist or get a coaching app that gives real-time exercise updates.
Make a date to be active with a friend, play with your grandchildren, or join a group or class.
Explore different activities and get the whole family involved!
Integrate exercise into your daily routine by walking home with your groceries, taking the stairs, stretching or walking at work during lunch, or taking your dog for an extra long walk
- Forget yesterday’s mistakes
Forgive yourself when you fall off the exercise wagon and climb right back on.
Set daily achievable goals like eating vegetables or fruit with every meal, squeezing in 30 minutes of activity, or putting 10,000 steps on your pedometer.
Look forward to something nice–listen to your favourite podcast, take a nap, putter in the garage, or bake cookies.
- Find inspiration wherever you can
What or who inspires you? A neighbour down the street who walks every day, rain or shine? Your co-worker training for his first marathon?
If you need extra motivation, most studies suggest 30-60 minutes per day of moderate- to high-intensity physical activity is associated with a reduction in breast and colon cancer risk, as well as other cancers.
Complicated isn’t better. Choose accessible activities like walking, swimming, or running.
Or do exercises that require nothing but your body (and the odd piece of furniture) like push-ups, squats, lunges, triceps dips, soup can curls, and sit-ups.
- Get to know yourself
Ask yourself what you like about exercise. What do you hate about exercise? What do you like doing most and what is your least favourite activity?
Would you rather be active with others, or alone?
Use your responses to change the way you do things. There’s no right way to exercise.
- Just keep moving
Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, spread out over most days. Even activity in brief 10- to 20-minute sessions counts.
Any run (walk, swim, bike, hike, or dance) is better than none at all.
Most of all, don’t give up!