Americans know the benefits of regular daily physical activity.
In fact the Surgeon General says that as little as 30 minutes
of brisk walking or cycling a day is enough to improve your
energy level and mood, aid with weight loss, and reduce your
risk for a host of chronic afflictions and an early demise.
But how do you make physical activity a habit that will stick?
By setting reasonable goals, building gradually, and keeping
your activity fun. Here are eight tips from Mark Fenton, author
of "The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight
Loss, and Fitness," on setting and reaching your goals.
1. Choose "internal" rather
than "external" goals.
Focus on things that matter to you, not
to others. So don't try to drop a dress size by your class
reunion so others will be impressed. Instead try to walk
20 minutes five days a week so you wake up feeling
better each morning.
2. Focus on an enjoyable process,
not a specific outcome.
If your goal is to lose 30 pounds, you
can end up (wrongly) disappointed if you only lose 28! But
maintaining a streak of 30 days where you've walked or biked
for at least 10 minutes will leave you feeling better on
every one of those days.
3. Have both short and long term
For example, short term is planning to
walk 12 out of the next 14 or 50 out of the next 60 days;
long term is trying to cycle 600 or 1,000 miles this year.
4. Tell others about your goal.
They're sure to ask how you're doing
and thus help keep you on track; they may even start exercising
5. Plan real rewards for meeting
Don't use food, and choose things of
substance you'll look forward too-earn yourself a new workout
jacket, a concert, even a hiking vacation.
6. Keep an exercise log or diary.
It'll help you see your progress and
keep your goal in mind, and is proven to keep exercisers
7. Sign up for an event.
Committing to walk a marathon or cycle
in a long fund raising event will help you build on your
exercise. Pick a fun location for the event (say, Bermuda
or Hawaii) and make it even becomes part of your reward!
8. Join an organized
or informal club or a team.
For bigger goals this can really help
you learn to train properly and keep you motivated.