We all know physical activity is good for us. Regular exercise can, among other things, reduce our risk of heart attack, lower our blood cholesterol level and simply help us feel better.
Although the health benefits are many, the list is outweighed by the number of exercise options and alternatives available to us. Walking, running, swimming, tennis, basketball, soccer, yoga, Pilates, karate, lifting weights, skiing, surfing, cycling . . . and so on.
Contrary to what we might believe, an abundance of choice is not always a good thing. In an article published in The Guardian, Professor Renata Salecl, author of The Tyranny of Choice, says “when people are overwhelmed by choice and when they are anxious about it, they often turn to denial, ignorance and wilful blindness”. In fact, too much choice makes us miserable more often than not, to the point where we actually choose to simply do nothing.
This is a problem when it comes to exercise, with health and government authorities unanimous in their recommendation of 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
With so much choice, then, where do we begin? Here are a few tips to get you going.
1. Start slow
Don’t overdo it at the outset. A lot of people give up on regular exercise because they do too much too soon. “Slow and steady” really is the right approach, as optimal health and fitness is a lifelong journey. Better to travel at a consistent pace than crashing and burning altogether. Ten minutes a day could be all you need.
2. Test the waters
Finding a niche when it comes to physical activity takes time. If you’re just starting out, the best thing you can do is simply try everything (oh oh oh oh). As a general rule, try an activity—be it running, cycling or skipping—three times. If after the third time you decide it’s not for you, give something else a go.
3. Exercise socially
It took joining a group (which included my girlfriend) to get me into long distance running. Prior to this, my resolve to run would simply run away long before I reached the door. Exercising with other people is a great motivator and a good way to make new friends.
4. Enjoy yourself
Nike says “just do it”. A motto I prefer much more is “just have fun”. When it comes to exercise, I believe it’s important you find something you really enjoy doing. “Get fit” is a message loaded with pressure. “Have fun” leaves you free to do what you want to do with your time. When it comes to physical activity, let fitness be the outcome, not the objective.
Run. Ride. Swim. Surf . . . so many options. But really at the end of the day, “the ball’s in your court”.