Yes, it’s that time of year again. 2020 is here and provides us with time for self-reflection. How was your 2019? What would you like to do better? How many times have we all looked back on the past year, set new goals, and after two weeks of being super motivated, fell behind due to our busy schedules?
Our January 2020 blog will discuss the benefits of exercising regularly, New Year’s resolutions, and how to create healthy, long-lasting habits that can be part of your new 2020 lifestyle.
So first let’s talk about some of the important benefits of exercising regularly:
- Regular exercise will make you happier! It’s a fact! When you exercise your brain produces hormones that regulate stress and anxiety. Exercising increases the production of endorphins, which help to produce positive feelings and reduce the perception of pain! Additionally, it can also increase brain sensitivity from the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, which relieve feelings of depression. To quote the great Elle Woods, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.”
- Regular exercise increases your energy levels. Exercising can be a real energy booster; it reduces feelings of fatigue and can help fight chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Regular exercise can help with stress management and improve your quality of sleep.
The energy depletion that occurs during exercise stimulates recuperative processes during sleep. Physical activity can help lower your overall stress levels and improve your quality of life, both mentally and physically. Exercising regularly can have a positive effect on your mood by relieving the tension, anxiety and/or anger, that often goes hand-in-hand with stress.
- Regular exercise helps with weight loss. If losing weight is on your list of goals for 2020, then regular exercise should be on it as well. When you are dieting, a reduced calorie intake will lower your metabolic rate, which will delay weight loss. On the contrary, regular exercise has been shown to increase your metabolic rate, which will burn more calories and help you to lose weight faster. A winning recipe for weight loss is the combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training to maximize fat loss and to gain more muscle mass – which is essential for losing weight and keeping it off.
- Regular exercise is beneficial for bone density, brain health and memory.
Physical activity like weight lifting can stimulate bone building when paired with an adequate diet. Increasing your heart rate promotes blood flow and oxygen to your brain. It can also stimulate the production of hormones that can enhance the growth of brain cells. Exercise has been shown to cause the hippocampus, a part of the brain that’s vital for memory and learning, to grow in size. This serves to increase mental function in older adults and helps to reduce changes in the brain that can cause Alzheimer’s disease.
- Regular exercise reduces the risk for chronic disease. Regular exercise can improve insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular fitness, body composition, and decrease blood pressure. Daily exercise is essential to reduce the risk of various chronic diseases.
Exercise offers incredible benefits that can improve nearly every aspect of your life. So how much should we exercise? The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week. They suggest breaking it down to 30-minute workout sessions, five days a week.
So how can we make exercising a HABIT, and a regular part of our lifestyle in 2020?
A health psychologist research group from the University College London found that on average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. It can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. Hold on, before you let this fact dishearten you, let’s talk about the reasons why this research is actually inspiring.
First, there is no need to judge yourself if you can’t master a behavior in 21 short days. It’s supposed to take longer than that!
Second, you don’t have to be perfect. Making a mistake here and there has no impact on your long-term habits. So give yourself permission to make mistakes, and develop strategies for getting back on track quickly.
Third, creating a habit and changing your lifestyle is a process. Embrace the process and commit to the change. If habits can override intentions, then habit formation may sustain health‐promoting behaviors over time, even when you lose your initial motivation.
The only way to get to Day 66 is to start with Day 1. So forget about the number and focus on doing the work. Here are some tips to help you create your new habit:
- When choosing a goal, aim for small, realistic and manageable behavior changes that you can fit in your current schedule (for example 30 min of daily exercise).
- Plan, plan and plan! Plan when and where you will perform your chosen action.
- Be consistent. Choose specific times and places and stick with them. Consistency will make it easier to form your habit.
- Every time you encounter that time and place do the action! Go exercise! Initiation requires you to be sufficiently motivated to begin your habit-formation journey.
- Use your calendar and block off time in your day that is dedicated for your action (or exercising) and just like a meeting with your boss, you cannot move it and you can’t not show-up!
- Use the Buddy System – accountability partners increases your chance of success!
- Print a monthly chart – hang it on your fridge, door or in your office, somewhere visible. Checking it off after every work-out is a gratifying way to note your commitment and progress!
- Trust yourself. It will get easier with time, after about 10 weeks you should be able to perform your habit automatically without thinking about it.
- Set up small rewards along the way. For example, treat yourself to a massage after meeting your weekly goals.
Good luck and Happy New Year!
Lihi Elkayam, PT, DPT, OCS