This is an excerpt from Active Living Every Day-3rd Edition by Steven N. Blair,Andrea L. Dunn,Bess H. Marcus,Ruth Ann Carpenter & Peter E. Jaret.
We’ve all heard that little voice in our heads that says, “I can’t” or “I won’t.” On other occasions, we’ve heard a confident, self-assured voice say, “Of course I can. No problem.” Fortunately, there are strategies to silence the negative voice and replace it with a positive one—ways to turn “I can’t” into “I know I can and will.”
Here’s another phrase we’d like you to use as often as possible: “I’ll give it a try.” To become active, especially if you’ve been sedentary for a while, it’s important to try new activities, even if you’re not sure you’ll like them. To change anything about your life, you need to take some chances. You have to be willing to go out on a limb and take on new challenges. If you find yourself feeling reluctant, shake off your doubts, and say to yourself, “I’ll give it a try.”
Let’s start by considering a few of the top reasons not to get up and do something active. Some we’ve talked about before, and at least one is probably a reason you’ve used yourself. For every one of the negatives, there’s a good counterargument.
“I’m Too Tired to Move”
We’ve all used this excuse as a reason for flopping on the couch and not moving for the rest of the evening. Consider this: Physical activity usually makes people feel energized. Many volunteers in our program reported feeling invigorated after walking or taking a bicycle out for a spin. If you’re too tired to move, the best remedy is usually to get up and move. You will nearly always feel better afterward.
“It’s Been a Stressful Day, and I’m in a Rotten Mood”
We’ve all been there. Stress can wear most of us down. But the worst thing you can do is sit and fret. Dozens of studies have shown that physical activity is a great way to relieve stress and blow off the frustrations of the day. Most people report feeling happy and relaxed after a game of tennis, a soothing swim, or a walk around the neighborhood. Another plus: You’ll experience the satisfaction of meeting your activity goal.
“I Have Way Too Much Work to Do”
Before you scuttle your plan to be active, consider this: Taking a short activity break could improve your productivity. When people work without a break, productivity usually begins to slump. Get up from your desk for a five-minute walk. Climb a few flights of stairs. Take a walk around the block at lunch. Chances are you’ll return feeling focused and full of energy to get the job done.
“It’s Too Cold (or Hot or Rainy or Snowy) to Go Outside”
That’s why it’s important to have a backup plan. If you don’t feel like walking outside, consider walking in the mall. If the weather is so bad you’d rather not drive to a mall, find a few things to do around the house. Options include doing some heavy-duty housecleaning to your favorite music, tackling that home repair you have been putting off, or walking around the house to get more steps on your activity tracker. If cold or rainy weather is a fact of life where you live, be ready with the clothes you need to brave the elements. Waterproof windbreakers can keep you dry. Down jackets, gloves, and hats keep you warm. Once you start moving, you’ll hardly notice the cold weather.
“I Want to Watch My Favorite TV Program Tonight”
Go ahead. Enjoy. Watching your favorite TV show, however, doesn’t have to mean being inactive. Some volunteers in our programs used a rowing machine or a stationary bike while watching television. Others made a point of getting up during the commercials to stretch, take a quick walk, climb the stairs, or do a few calisthenics. Another strategy is to schedule a 10-minute walk before and after your favorite program. Right there you’ve tallied up 20 minutes. If your goal is to get 30 minutes of activity every day, another 10 minutes should be easy to find.
Our point is simple: For every good reason not to be active, there’s an even better reason to get up and do something. To build confidence and encourage yourself, use positive messages to counteract the negative thoughts that sometimes get in your way.