By: Shahin Soltanian (PhD in Philosophy)
Regular exercise has been associated with many health benefits for people of all ages. Being fit also assists in living a more active and energetic life. Alongside a healthy diet, exercise can also be used to shape the body to be more aesthetic and keep it looking younger for a longer period of time. However, many people have difficulty integrating exercise into their lives. One of the main impediments to regular exercise for most people is time. A person’s work, family and social activities can often not leave room for an hour or two of workout on a regular basis. But our busy life in most cases doesn’t have to be an obstacle to exercise. Below are some steps that many people can take to integrate regular exercise into their daily or weekly schedule.
You don’t have to go to the Gym to Exercise
There is a tendency for many people to believe that the only way to exercise is by going to the gym. There are a number of benefits when attending a gym such as the availability of equipment needed for various different exercises, access to trainers and the ability to socialize with others who also like to exercise. My preference for exercise is to do it at home. If a person is well-prepared in terms of equipment, has the space and has sufficient knowledge of the exercise they will be participating in, then exercising at home could both save time and be easier to manage. If a person is part of a larger family group that includes parents and children then exercising at home could also provide the opportunity to spend time with the family.
There is no need for fancy equipment to get the health benefits of exercise and even to shape the body. Health benefits and aesthetic sculpting of the body can be done using simple exercise equipment (such as a few dumbbells) or through calisthenics workout (which requires minimal equipment and a person’s own bodyweight). Skipping, running or walking is also another option.
Exercise While Engaging in other Activities
Traditionally the typical ritual for watching a movie or a television series has been to sit in front of the screen with a snack while being entertained. This does not have to be the case. In fact, research indicates that eating while distracted (such as watching television or a movie) can contribute to weight gain (See link: Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating). When watching a program a person is less likely to keep a track on the amount and quality of what they are eating. So why not change the unhealthy parts of watching a favourite program with exercise? Instead of sitting down and eating a snack it is possible to exercise while watching a movie or a television series. This can be modified depending on circumstances of each person. For example, a family can all take part in exercising while watching a movie or a program. Alternatively, if others have already exercised or are going to do it at a later time, while some are sitting and watching, others can exercise. This way exercise will be less boring because when someone is engaged in watching something they enjoy time seems to pass more quickly for them.
Listening to music can be another way to make sure exercise is less strenuous and monotonous and more fun. Research has indicated that listening to music, especially stimulative and motivational music (See link to research here: Music in the exercise domain: a review and synthesis (Part II)) causes individuals to workout harder. Another research concluded that there was a link between the dopamine neurotransmitters (responsible for the feeling of pleasure) and listening to music (see link to research here: Dopamine modulates the reward experiences elicited by music). Creating a less stressful and more pleasurable atmosphere can contribute to a more rewarding and less boring exercise session.
Replace Unnecessary Time Wasters with Exercise
Many of us spend a lot of time perusing our social media accounts simply because we have nothing better to do. If a person was to carefully examine all their activities online they would admit at least some of that activity is unnecessary, does not contribute anything to their relaxation and does not enhance their lives in any way. In fact, it could be said that overall if we were to examine all our daily activities many of us could single out time wasting activities. With some reorganizing a person can arrange to introduce exercise in their daily activities.
While we are discussing replacing certain unnecessary and unhealthy activities with others it would be beneficial to also discuss eating habits. One reason an individual might have an unhealthy eating habit could be due to a lack of other activities. When a person has nothing else to do they might feel that eating could help them pass time. But if one is to integrate exercise into their lives then that time is not used for food consumption.
Encourage Each Other
Probably the most important impediment to a healthy lifestyle is a person’s social surrounding. For example, if someone is surrounded by heavy alcohol drinkers they are bound to feel the pressure to also engage in the activity. Similarly, if a person is surrounded by people whose eating habits are unhealthy and have an aversion to exercise it is difficult to be the lone individual who is different and has to continuously do things differently. This is because human beings are social creatures and food and recreational activities play an important role in our social bonding. Therefore, it is important that we encourage each other in healthy habits even if some of us are lax in doing them ourselves. It is also important to be willing to accept well-intentioned advice from a romantic partner, parent or a friend who cares for our health and well-being.
A person or family can separate their social activities in a way to avoid any social interaction that involves unhealthy behaviour. Social interaction with family members or friends that regularly engage in unhealthy behaviour can be restricted to times and activities that does not involve those situations. At the end of the day, one’s health and the health of one’s family is more important than pleasing other people.
Make it a Group Activity
I noted above that Human beings are social creatures. Most people (even many introverts) enjoy spending some time with others. One of the best ways, to both leave time aside and enjoy exercising is by doing it with others. Exercise can be done with the family, friends or just two romantic partners together. There are also many social venues (for example gyms, aerobic sessions, etc.) available for exercising with other enthusiasts.
As a parent you can encourage your children to exercise with each other or with you as a regular family activity. This way everyone gets to spend time together as a family while developing a healthy habit.
In conclusion, in most cases if a person is determined to exercise there are ways to achieve it and organize it around other life responsibilities. By incorporating some of the ideas in this article it might become possible to leave an extra hour or two aside for exercise after all.
Dr Shahin Soltanian has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Auckland. He is the author of The Kashfence Philosophy (Discovering Through Rational and Scientific Analysis). His undergraduate studies included in addition to philosophy, psychology and civil engineering. He has helped many people with weight management and fitness.