In a world where we are required to sit for the majority of our day at desks and in cars, it may seem impossible to fit physical activity into our already hectic schedules. It’s easy for others to recommend getting more exercise as a way of caring for yourself, but it’s much harder to actually put that advice into practice.
Staying motivated is the simplest way to keep going, though it can still be tough. While there is no easy solution or quick fix, finding achievements, such as non-scale victories, is a great way to keep yourself motivated and strive for the next goal.
Many of us have larger fitness goals, from running a marathon to climbing a mountain. These can seem incredibly daunting when we look at them as a whole, but recognizing every win along the way can make the goal seem more achievable — one way to do this is with non-scale victories. Non-scale victories are health improvements outside of your weight that show you are making progress towards your fitness goals. Instead of judging our success by our mile split or the number on a scale, we acknowledge every improvement that we can make in our lives every day.
So whatever your goal, start small. Five minutes of movement or one healthy meal is better than none at all. A recent study found that swapping just 30 minutes of sitting with low-intensity physical activity reduced the risk of death by 17%. Low-impact exercises put less stress on your muscles but still improve heart health. Examples of this include swimming, rowing, or cycling — try different forms of exercise until you find one that you enjoy.
Once you establish these smaller habits, it will be easier to build onto them to reach a larger goal. Before the scale moves or you hit your split goal, you may notice your clothes fit better or you have more energy. Be sure to acknowledge those successes without putting yourself down for not making scalable improvements. Set yourself up for continued success by really focusing on why you chose this goal, creating measurable objectives, and making a plan. You’re on the right track!
When you meet your goals, even the smallest ones, it is important to celebrate those wins. If you don’t acknowledge the small steps you’ve taken towards a larger goal, motivation diminishes much more quickly. If you don’t feel like you’re making any progress at all, slogging towards a perceived unattainable goal becomes impossible and it’s more likely that you will give up.
Celebrating small victories releases dopamine in your brain, which gives you a feeling of pride and happiness. Your brain will want to attain this good feeling again, giving you the motivation to want to go further towards your next achievement. So give yourself as much credit for the five-minute walk as you do the 30-minute workout. They are all steps towards achieving the same goal.
Being motivated towards achieving better heart health is the first step; the American Heart Association has some suggestions to keep you going towards your goals. They recommend outdoor exercise, which is a great way to get moving and take in the sunlight, which can improve your mood, boost immunity, and help you get some Vitamin D.
Spending time outdoors is no-cost and has been shown to reduce stress, promote a sense of belonging and improve mood. If you have a pet, get moving together! Exercise is a win-win for the health of you and your pet. Go for a walk to explore a new trail or area of your town, or just get playful in the backyard.
Making a commitment to yourself to move can also be motivating. Schedule time throughout the day and set a reminder on your calendar, phone, or in your journal. Or, find yourself an accountability partner and schedule time together to get moving every day. You’ll be even more likely to stay on your schedule when you have another person counting on you, and you can celebrate every achievement together.
Tackling fitness goals and improving your heart health doesn’t have to be a solo journey. The American Heart Association offers a number of events from luncheons to walks that connect people trying to accomplish the same thing. And Echelon members have a community to back them up and a plethora of classes from stretching and yoga to running and strength training to choose from. Do whatever gets you moving and having fun, whether that be stretching, walking, or dancing!
Want to improve your own heart health and find a fitness routine you’ll love? Learn more about becoming an Echelon member here.