Getting fit is a resolution many take on each new year. Those who are able to maintain that resolution throughout the year likely already realize that it goes beyond a gym membership. Achieving long-term fitness goals require lifestyle changes, but this can be much easier than you realize. Subtle changes actually have the biggest effect, if you can make them permanently.
Exercise is important for both physical and mental health, so the most important thing is that you get moving. It really doesn’t matter if that happens through a structured fitness program, several weekly trips to the gym or nightly walks around the block. If you move, you will see positive results for both your mind and body, and it doesn’t have to cost a lot in terms of money or time.
Fitness goals are important, but don’t pressure yourself into unrealistic ones. The goal for most adults is 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Fit it in with any activity that works for you, and at any time during the day. If getting off the couch is difficult, consider moving your TV in front of your treadmill, or vice versa, and only watching TV programs as you walk. Soon you’ll have more energy and an increased desire to be more active. Just be sure to speak to your doctor before increasing your current level of physical activity, particularly if you have any health or mobility conditions that might limit what activities you can participate in.
Gym memberships can be great for those in urban areas or with tight schedules, but don’t limit yourself. Going outdoors can provide additional mental health benefits that exercising indoors may not provide. Going hiking, riding a bike, or just taking a walk around the block can boost your mood and help to keep you motivated. If yoga is your activity of choice, most cities have places where you can take outdoor classes as weather permits.
If you choose an outdoor program for cost or convenience, make sure you create an alternative plan for inclement weather to avoid derailing your progress and motivation. If you enjoy team sports, consider joining an intramural team, community rec program or a church league. Keep in mind that these programs are seasonal and sports will vary throughout the year.
Physical activity is only part of a healthy lifestyle. Making nutritious choices when you eat is the other piece of the puzzle. Choosing an appropriate diet can be difficult, but this is made easier simply by choosing fresh foods over pre-packaged processed foods. To get the best foods without spending a fortune, consider visiting local farmers markets to find in-season produce, and local products. This helps support your local community and ensures you get the freshest products for the best price. While choosing fresh and local options will help most meet their wellness goals, if you have special dietary needs due to a health condition consider visiting a nutritionist or dietician to help you create a meal plan that works for you.
If fitness and a new healthy lifestyle is something you’re hoping to achieve this year, don’t pressure yourself with big unattainable goals and expensive commitments. Instead, focus on making small, achievable and measurable goals.