No time to exercise? Are you sure?

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ParticipACTION, Smiling Young Businesswoman Walking Up Stairs

Yesterday I read a feature on CBC titled Canadians have no time for healthy living. In it, the Heart and Stroke Foundation shares results of a recent online survey in which almost half of respondents indicated that although they know heart disease and stroke can be fought by making healthy choices, they don’t have enough time to be active or to eat healthy meals.

As cardiologist Dr. Beth Abramson suggests in the feature, there is an apparent disconnect between what Canadians know they need to do to protect themselves from heart disease and stroke and what they’re actually doing. In fact, 44% of the 2160 adults surveyed, said they had no time for regular physical activity.

While I acknowledge that many Canadians are pressed for time, it’s interesting to note that according to Statistics Canada, 29% of Canadians over the age of 20, spend two or more hours a day watching television and 15% said they spend at least 1.5 hours a day of their leisure time on computers.

I believe that what most inactive people struggle with is not actually “no time” to exercise, but the “perception” that they have no time to exercise. Common motivations to exercise include promoting health, managing weight, increasing physical attractiveness, managing stress, reducing anxiety, enhancing self-esteem and my favorite… enjoyment!

Renowned sport psychologist, William Morgan, believes that when it comes to reasons for avoiding exercise, the typical reasons people give of “no time,” or “cost,” or “inconvenience,” often mask a more fundamental issue. He suggests that a core reason people don’t or won’t exercise is that they don’t want to participate in activities that are meaningless or without purpose, such as pedalling a stationary bike. This of course ties into my own belief that exercise or physical activity should be enjoyable and fun in order for people to want to engage in and stick with it. I think it’s also important to acknowledge that over time, motives for exercising also change. I always hope to see someone new to physical activity (perhaps with an intial motivation of reducing their blood pressure) discover other motives for continuing with it long after their initial goals are met.

Those who exercise in a recreational capacity are much more likely to engage long term if they enjoy the activities in which they participate and experience satisfaction and fulfillment from them beyond their initial reasons for getting started (i.e. losing weight, becoming stronger, etc.). As an example, someone may join a walking group to help them achieve weight loss and to help reduce their blood pressure. While they may achieve their goals, it may in fact be that they come to enjoy the experience and socialization with other walkers so much, that they stick with it long after their goals are met… in other words, because they enjoy it.

The key my friends, is to find something you enjoy, better yet, something you love! Wondering where to start? Here are a few suggestions…. because you do have time.

1) What did you enjoy doing as a child or teenager? Perhaps it’s time to pick up where you left off!

2) Ask others what they do to stay active and find out which activities they enjoy most. Ask if you can join them to try something new.

3) Walking is the most natural exercise in the world and offers so many benefits. Listen to your favorite tunes and stride your way to work, to run errands or at a regular time of the day or evening. Think you’ll do better with a walking group? Join one!

4) Drop in to your local YMCA and ask about the many different classes they offer. As a YMCA member and a fitness instructor, let me assure you that the YMCA caters to members of all ages and abilities. Further, the YMCA provides financial assistance to those form whom cost might present a barrier.

5) Fit physical activity into your regular routine. Shopping? Walk to the mall or park as far from it as you can and walk the rest of the way. Going up? Take the stairs and not the elevator. Taking the kids to school? If you can walk or bike and make it active for all, so much the better!

In a terrific video clip, Dr. Mike Evans of Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital, speaks to some of the tremendous health benefits of becoming more active. No, you don’t need to run marathons or move mountains…. you just need to move more. Do it for yourself and do it for your kids – they need you as an active role model if they too are going to move more and adopt a healthy lifestyle.

You do have time for physical activity and a commitment to an active lifestyle is, if you ask me, one of the greatest things you can do for yourself and give to your kids.