It's hard to believe, but fall is here! If you're thinking this might be a good time to start getting back into shape or boost your current fitness routine, we're right there with you.
Although fall is busier than summer for most of us, it also has a stronger schedule and routine--both of which we can use to our advantage to establish an exercise habit and get fit this fall.
But we have to be smart about it and make sure we get the most fitness "bang" for our time and energy "bucks." So if you're thinking about making a plan to get fit this fall, here are 4 strategies to help you start and stay on track:
Acknowledge your need to be healthy and fit, and recognize that it deserves some of your time and energy. Your health and sense of well being are important, to you and your family. They're as important as work, play group, soccer practice, piano lessons, and volunteer activities. Many parents have trouble taking time to exercise. If that's been an issue for you in the past, work to move beyond it this fall. Set a goal, write it down, put it in your calendar--or do whatever it takes to help you make exercise, fitness and your health a priority.
Choose an activity you enjoy. "Exercise" doesn't have to mean "go to the gym." If you enjoy going to the gym, great. If not, figure out what you do enjoy. Walking, jogging, hiking, biking, swimming, and dancing are great. So is working out with a yoga DVD in your bedroom or taking a Zumba class at your church. Or just doing simple exercises, like push-ups, squats, and jumping jacks, at home. Or mix it up--walking today, dancing tomorrow, and biking on the weekend. Figure out what works with your interests and your schedule--those two things need to align in order for your exercise plan to succeed.
Look for "pockets of time" you can devote to exercise/physical activity. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week--just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Review your schedule at the beginning of every week and see where you can fit it in. The idea of "pockets of time" is to find little bits of time here and there where we can get up and move.
So, can you walk around the field while your son practices soccer or around the gym while your daughter practices basketball? Can you walk for 15 minutes during your lunch hour and another 15 after dinner? Can you and your partner walk for 30 minutes on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon? Can your family ride bikes together? Can you get up 30 minutes early to walk or do a DVD workout? Can you keep moving while your younger children play at the park? (No sitting on benches!) Find your "pockets" of time and use them to get up and move!
Use technology to encourage you and help you stay on track. If you like gadgets or technology, even just a little bit, then put them to work to help you get fit and stay fit. The range of options available boggles the mind. You can use a basic pedometer to track your steps (shoot for over 7,000 per day). Or use a fitness tracker like the FitBit. These fun little gadgets link to an online account through your computer or smartphone and let you track steps, miles, calories burned, and other health information (depending on the model). You can also download a fitness app, many of which are free or low cost. Or use MyFitnessPal on your phone or computer to track nutrition and exercise habits. All these options are fun, but remember that you don't need something super fancy to track your steps and exercise.
Making time to exercise and get fit isn't easy, but it's important and well worth the effort. Once you get started, your mind, body, and spirit will thank you over and over again. So use the change in seasons to help you start and stick with a regular exercise routine.