So what's best for you? Physical activity or exercise? The the correct answer is whatever you like! Be active in whichever form of activity excites you and that can fit into your life regularly. Many people find a combination of exercise and physical activity the easiest to maintain over the long run. The key is to discover activities you like doing, and that you can develop into healthy habits.
To introduce daily activity or exercise into your life, you may have to overcome personal obstacles. Common obstacles to physical activity include lack of time, inconvenience, a dislike of physical activity, lack of confidence, a fear of hurting yourself, and lack of motivation. The key to overcoming these personal obstacles is to start slowly, or take "baby steps" towards your activity goals. Some ideas:
Watch and learn
Look around you for some inspiration. For you, it might mean watching the Olympics, professional sports, or seeing people work out in a gym or jogging in the park. Read program guides for your local YM/YWCA or your school's recreation centre or gym to see what sparks your interest. Ask friends who are active in sports or other physical activities about their experiences. When you're ready, watch a fitness class or sports game, then join in on a casual basis. The key is to enjoy yourself - keep learning and watching until you find an activity you really enjoy.
Remember, when watching others exercising at these facilities they could be more experienced and therefore are more comfortable with gym equipment and activities than you are. Don't be discouraged if they make something look easy. Instead, use other exercisers as inspiration. Remind yourself that everyone has to start somewhere. After all, even the super-fit specimens at your gym were once as inexperienced as you!
When in doubt, ask gym employees about the equipment. They can show you the right (and wrong) ways to use the machines. If you can, opt for a brief training session - many gyms offer free consultations or reduced fees for members.
Make it social
Many people also find it easier to introduce physical activity into their lives if it's a social event. For example, join a walking group at your school or work to make the activity more interesting. Instead of going out for dinner with your friends on a Friday night, try bowling or taking a dance class.
You can also try a variety of group activities like co-ed softball, volleyball or even hockey. Team sports not only boost your activity level but also provide an opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. Try to fit more physical activity into your leisure time. For example, ride a stationary bike while you watch television, dance while you listen to music, or do leg lifts while you're on the phone.
Having a partner who is in the same physical condition as you can work well to help motivate you. You will be able to push each other through your exercises and hold each other accountable, ensuring that you get out and exercise more often.
Keep it short
Combining shorter periods of activity over the course of the day is another great way to get active. For example, try being active in smaller "chunks" through the day, such as walking 10 to 15 minutes three or four times a day or always taking the stairs instead of using the elevator. 10-minute activities throughout the day can help you to reach your recommended activity time.
Ideas for daily activity
- Take the stairs whenever possible
- Get off the bus / subway one stop early to increase your walk
- Park your car a short walk away from your destination
- Build exercise breaks into class or work shifts
- Take a brisk walk during lunch hour
- Walk or cycle to the grocery store, instead of taking the car
Whichever activity you choose, aim for moderate effort. What is moderate effort? If your breathing and heart rate increase, you feel your body temperature rising, and your face gets flushed, you're using moderate effort.