For many Americans, “get more exercise” is a resolution nearly every year. But how can you go from being a weekend warrior to a regular exercise-r? We have some tips.
You know that you need regular exercise. And you try to hit the gym at least on the weekends to fit in as much exercise as possible. But that weekend warrior routine can get old fast—leaving you achy and sore and not in the best shape.
Set yourself and your health up for more success by cultivating a habit of regular exercise instead. While that may sound seemingly impossible given your hectic schedule, we promise, it’s not.
Why Regular Exercise Is Important
You probably know many of the benefits of exercise, but let’s review them anyway. After all, there are a lot!
Consistent, regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, moderate your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and lower your risk of developing chronic health conditions. But being regularly physically active also has other benefits. It promotes quality sleep, boosts your cognitive health, decreases the risk of depression and anxiety and provides a known mood booster.
“Physical activity boosts our health in so many different ways,” says Ravinder Machra, MD, internal medicine physician with West Tennessee Medical Group. “The physical benefits immediately come to mind—we know it gets the heart pumping, for example—but getting regular exercise also positively impacts mental and emotional health. It’s a prescription for optimal health.”
How to Go From “Weekend Warrior” to an Exercise Habit
We’ll start off by saying that if you really and truly can only exercise on the weekends, being a weekend warrior isn’t a totally bad thing.
But it’s not the best thing for two key reasons—first, when you’re being physically active only on the weekends, you’re putting yourself at an increased risk of injury. And second, you’re unlikely to get enough physical activity on the weekend to make up for a full week of sedentary behavior.
Besides, it’s unlikely that you really, truly don’t have time to exercise during the week itself. While experts recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, that 150 minutes doesn’t need to come all at once. It amounts to less than 22 minutes per day, which is totally doable for most of us.
Ready to build an exercise habit? Try these tips:
Give yourself time. The odds are, you aren’t going to move from weekend warrior to exercising daily all at once. Create a plan that allows you transition to a more consistent exercise routine over the course of a month or two. Start by adding in one weekday workout a week, then boost that to two and then three.
Start slow and build up. This is so important! If you try to start out with really long workouts and very heavy weights, you are unlikely to stick with the routine and more likely to abandon exercise or even to injure yourself. Grow your habit over time.
Find an activity or two that you love. To stick with anything, we have to make it enjoyable. If you hate the workouts you’re doing, you are going to dread them. That will make you much more likely to skip one or two a week until you’ve abandoned the habit altogether. Experiment with different types of physical activity until you find some you enjoy—or that you can at least tolerate while listening to a favorite audiobook or podcast!
Give yourself grace. Schedule in your workouts like an appointment, but if you need to occasionally shift one to another day or time, that’s OK. Perfection is not the goal.
Practice the buddy system. Working out with friends can make even a tedious workout go by more quickly. While social distancing makes this a little more challenging right now, you can still get in safe walks outdoors (and/or with a mask) with a friend. Or you can Zoom together to do a bodyweight or dumbbell routine together.
Think outside the exercise box. Physical activity doesn’t always have to be formal exercise, and there are many benefits to simply being more active. Incorporating activities such as gardening into your routine is a way to add more physical activity without it feeling like a burden.
Break it down. Can’t imagine where you’ll fit an hour-long workout into your day? That’s OK, you don’t need to! Carve out 20 minutes and get in a walk or tune in to an online HIIT workout. Small workouts add up.
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