How to make exercise part of your life (think steady progress, not perfection)

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Can you believe we well into 2013 already? Cast your mind back to the beginning of the year, when you pledged to yourself that this would be your year to finally get in shape.

How are you going with that? Have the lifestyle changes you made started to positively impact your life? Have you managed to incorporate fun and engaging exercise into your daily schedule? Are you making better food choices by cutting down on the booze, eating fewer bad fats, sugar and salt, and eating more fruits, vegetables and lean meat? Are you feeling better, sleeping better, and looking better?

Or are you still thinking about it, about how you should start one of these days? Have your New Year good intentions remained just that; intentions with no action?

If you have struggled to settle into a healthy groove so far, read on as I take you through some steps that, if followed, can lead you to lasting, permanent change.

  • Develop a "move more" mindset. Every morning remind your body to get more movement throughout the day, and you will be more likely to do it. Sit less and stand more. Take the stairs. Walk to talk with a co-worker instead of emailing them. Park the car further away from the shops. There are numerous ways you can sneak more incidental activity into your day.
  • Commit to regular activity. Schedule exercise like any other appointment on your calendar and treat it as a commitment rather than something you squeeze in if you have time. Even if you can only allot 15 minutes at a time, schedule it.
  • Find your favorite exercise. How long do you think you will last doing a form of exercise you don’t enjoy? Out of all the different types of exercise out there, find one you love, that way excuses won’t even enter the equation when it’s time to do it!
  • Focus on health and strength and what it means to you, and not on numbers on a scale. Many people can get easily discouraged and give up when there’s too much emphasis on weight loss. Rather than an exclusive focus on weight loss, focus on the feeling of your body getting stronger or your new ability to able to exercise longer. Think about the great way your body feels after exercise and the exhilaration you feel. Taking the time to consider what really connects you to exercise on an emotional level is powerful because you can use those thoughts to motivate you.
  • Put yourself first. Stressful situations can take your focus away from properly caring for yourself. If you neglect yourself for the sake of external problems, you will be creating more problems than you are solving. Make sure you consider what you need and do something for yourself each day. Even if you only have 15 minutes, just commit to 15 minutes. You aren’t able to effectively take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself first. Keep that in mind.
  • Exercise with a group. When you join up with others to exercise, not only do you get the immediate benefits of exercise, you also get time spent with friends, which is a double deposit into your well-being. When you discover physical activities and forms of exercise you love, you develop a sense of camaraderie and community with others. Accountability works.
  • Think of how exercise boosts your sense of wellbeing. All of us can use exercise today to get more energy, alleviate stress, increase productivity, improve our outlook, sleep better and feel happier! Think about what you stand to gain if you work out today. Maybe it’s a more positive disposition or the satisfaction in knowing you pushed your body.
  • Remind yourself daily of your why. Remember my article from February’s newsletter (Working away on site is no excuse to be unfit) where I encouraged you to get personal and really connect with all those good reasons you have to live a healthy life? It’s easy to get off track if you aren’t reminding yourself of why working out and eating healthy is important to you. Your core motivation is what will help you keep the commitment you made to yourself to pursue these healthy lifestyle changes.

Try some of these steps to make exercise a part of your life. And remember, it’s about progress, not perfection!

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Mareike Bout is a qualified and registered personal trainer who specialises in holistic fitness and lifestyle coaching. She is a recognised leader in the industry, receiving the peer-voted South Australia Personal Trainer of the Year award in 2008. She is also a regular guest on Adelaide’s top-rating radio station FIVEaa. Mareike runs her personal training business, One Life Live Well, both online and from a private studio in Adelaide. Services include one-on-one training, outdoor group fitness, lifestyle coaching and weight-loss programs. Individually tailored programs encompass aspects of exercise, nutrition, relaxation, positive thinking, life balance, and goal setting. Her approach is to guide, support and educate her clients so that they posses the tools required to live a life of health, strength and vitality!