If you’re having a hard time getting motivated to get moving, you’re not alone.
“People sometimes put up barriers to exercise, like limited time or limited resources,” says Evan Thoman, wellness specialist with MD Anderson. “When we take a closer look, I usually find that although the barriers may be valid, they are not insurmountable.”
And finding the way past those barriers is well worth it. Study after study shows that exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight – a crucial part of lowering your cancer risk.
Thoman shared some common mental hurdles to exercise, and how to overcome them.
I don’t know where to start
The best place to start is by sitting less. Studies show that sitting for long periods without a break is bad for you, even if you exercise regularly.
Extended sitting increases your risk for several cancers, as well as your risk for obesity. So get up and move for a couple of minutes, at least once an hour.
Whether you are just starting out or you exercise regularly, sitting less will improve how well you move and feel throughout the day.
Your body adapts to the position that you are in all day, so extended sitting, especially if your posture is not great, puts stress on joints and muscles.
“I see a lot of forward shoulder-rounding and tightened muscles from sitting,” says Thoman. “Just moving more throughout the day is really important, and helps keep you out of some of those poor positions.”
I don’t have time to exercise
“The most common reason I hear for not being physically active is lack of time,” says Thoman.
If you think you’re too busy to exercise, he suggests writing down all your daily activities for a week. Most people discover that they can swap some TV time for exercise. Or, they can get active while doing something they are doing anyway, like spending time with their kids.
“Keep a log and it will become very apparent that you can substitute a passive activity for a positive one,” he says. “If being healthy is important to you, make an appointment with yourself and stick to it.”
Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. You can break that up into increments of as little as 10 minutes.
I don’t have the resources to exercise
You do not need a gym membership or expensive equipment to get active.
And aim for balance by working on your strength. Simple strength-building exercises will improve your muscle tone.
Do muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week. Strength training can include both free weights and weight machines, but you don’t need them to have an effective routine.
You can use resistance bands, your own body weight or even soup cans or milk jugs as weights.
“You don’t have to pay to reap the benefits of physical activity. Anything that is movement is a start,” says Thoman.
I don’t have the energy to exercise
Believe it or not, exercising gives you energy.
“Exercise releases endorphins and other hormones that give you a physical and mental boost,” says Thoman. “Alternately, being sedentary is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and also can add to feelings of anxiety, depression. It can increase the risk of certain cancers.”
You’ll sleep better, too, which means you’ll be better rested and have more energy throughout the day.
As your muscle mass improves with strength training, you will burn more calories at rest. Combined with the calories you burn during exercise, you will find it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
Carrying less weight around will boost your energy, and lower your cancer risk.
I’m not fit enough to exercise
Someone who is just starting out may fear they’ll fail, quit or look silly because they aren’t in good shape.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure, so find your starting point and plan from there. That may be as simple as walking as far as you can for 10 minutes.
“It honestly doesn’t matter if that starting point is zero,” says Thoman. “Once you begin and recognize that physical activity is essential to your health and quality of life, getting and staying motivated is easier.”
The barrier may be the fear of the unknown.
“Sometimes the best advice starting out is just keeping it simple,” Thoman says. “Move more than you currently do now, and try to reduce your optional sitting throughout your workday.”