We are coming up on a six-month check-in (July 1) for our New Year's resolution adherence. How are you doing? Hoping maybe the thought would disappear until January 2013? Well, I've been informally polling people lately about why they are not physically active. Here is what I learned:
Annie's top 10 reasons for not being physically active:
10. "It took me a long time to get accustomed to this lethargic lifestyle!"
9. "What will I do with my XXL work uniform?"
8. "If I work out, then I'll have to take a shower."
7. "I'm afraid I'll become obsessive-compulsive and can't stop!"
6. "I can't exercise on weekdays because of commitments. Weekends are better!"
5. "It's hard on the weekend; I usually have plans. Weekdays would be better!"
4. "I'm afraid I'll look better than my friends and their self-esteem might plummet!"
3. "My friends won't let me."
2. "I just had plastic surgery and liposuction; my doctor said I am not supposed to do anything physical."
And the No. 1 reason for not exercising
"Not now, I'm watching an exercise infomercial."
These might be silly. We have to laugh at ourselves and our excuses. What's your reason? Ninety percent of Americans polled agree that exercise is important to their health. Ironically, studies show that fewer than 5 percent of American adults are actually meeting the recommended amount of exercise.
The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends doing 150 minutes of moderate intensity (or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity) aerobic activity each week. That equates to about 20 minutes each day. What is the culprit behind this gap? Why does it seem like such a difficult commitment? Let's put it in perspective.
We primp and groom ourselves every morning for more than an hour; we spend nearly 90 minutes a day eating and snacking; more than four hours a day watching TV; three hours a day driving in the car; more than an hour a day on our mobile phones; and some people even spend two hours a day smoking a cigarette. Maybe 20 minutes isn't such a big deal after all. Maybe it's about priorities.
The top excuse for not exercising is time. Adults indicate that they don't have enough time. But studies have shown that active people having the most regular exercise routines are just as busy as those who aren't active. So, while it seems as if it may be difficult to "fit it in," it may be just the perception that there isn't enough time. There is enough time, but it does require creative planning.
Here are some helpful hints to staying active:
Find something you like. Don't pick an activity that other people say you'll like. Only you know.
Use variety. Change your routine. Walk on the treadmill one day, take a class one day, play badminton one day.
Utilize music. Listen to music while you're on the treadmill or stationary bike. Research shows that music is one of the best motivators to physical activity. iPods and phones are great options when you're walking. You can download your favorite new song or classic old favorite for about $1.
Set achievable goals. Choose the length of your exercise sessions and the number of sessions you will perform each week based on what you know you can do. Even if it's a small amount, the goal is to make it stick. Overzealous goals will set you up to fail.
Exercise with an accountability partner. Plan a time and place to meet a friend on a regular basis. Then, when you don't feel like going, it's more difficult to cancel because it involves someone else.
My best advice? Get a dog. Dogs need to be walked every day, and they will remind you when it's time.
Annie R. Lindsay is an assistant professor and exercise physiologist at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She conducts research and programming in adult fitness, physical activity, body image and childhood obesity prevention. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.