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Making time for exercise is one thing that I struggle with almost daily and I know I’m not alone. Sometimes my schedule is so busy, or the day at work has been so exhausting, that the last thing I want to do is exercise, even though, 99% of the time, I know it will make me feel a lot better! According to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, only 3 in 10 adults get the recommended amount of exercise per day.

I do a lot of talking on food and nutrition, but I haven’t really talked much about exercising. Exercise is important for everyone – no matter how old (or young) you are, if you’re overweight or not, if you’re healthy or are dealing with health problems. Exercise will not only help you feel better mentally, it is vital to keep your body functioning at its optimum levels. And, it’s not just your cardiovascular system that benefits from regular exercise. Your bones, skin, muscles, hormones, and internal organs all benefit from the activity, not to mention your brain.

I’m sure that most people know that muscle burns more calories than fat – but do you know how much more? The numbers are rather impressive. According to WebMD, for each additional pound of muscle that you build, you can burn up to 50 more calories a day! So building just five pounds of muscle will allow you to burn up to 250 calories more per day! The more muscle you build, the more calories you’ll burn.

Making the Time

The thing that most people struggle with is making regular exercise part of their lives. The Mayo Clinic recommends a minimum of two and a half hours of moderate exercise (brisk walking) per week or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as running. They also recommend doing some weight bearing exercise at least two times per week. The simplest way to keep track of your time is to do 30 minutes of physical activity daily – this can be walking, hiking, running, biking, roller blading, tennis, snowboarding, yoga, gardening, working on your house, etc. Ideally, you should participate in a variety of activities so that you don’t get bored and your body doesn’t get used to the same old thing. If you’re wanting to lose weight, you’ll need to up your exercise a little more to shed those pounds.

Now, it’s all fine and dandy to know what’s recommended, but fitting it into your schedule is the hard part! I struggle with regular exercise. I love exercising when I’m in the middle of it and I definitely love the way I feel after a sweat session. However, getting to the gym, park or yoga class is my roadblock. There are always other things that need to be done. There are a million excuses that I can create on why I don’t have time to exercise. However, if I want to live a long, healthy life, I have to couple regular exercise with good eating habits.

6 Tips for Regular Exercise

1. Make it a priority – I constantly remind myself that there is NO excuse for not taking care of myself. No matter how tired, busy or lazy I’m feeling, I keep reminding myself of that.

2. Make it fun – This is a big one for me. I get bored with exercise. I don’t really like going to the gym (gym rat I’ll never be) but do go because I know it’s good for me. I find that I am much more diligent if I do something that doesn’t really feel like exercise. Hiking is probably my favorite activity because it’s exercise but it doesn’t feel like exercise. Especially if you can hike with a friend, which takes me to #3.

3. Grab a buddy – There is something to be said by having an exercise partner. There is added accountability when you involve another person in your plans. Not only will it give you someone to talk to while exercising (which helps you from getting bored), it can create some additional motivation (or competition depending on your personality). It’s also a lot easier to put on those walking shoes on when you’ve got someone giving you a guilt trip when you want to bail!

4. Log your results – I am a visual person. I like to see my accomplishments and the best way that I have found to do this is to track my exercise. I use an free, online tool called Daily Burn. It allows me to track each specific exercise I’ve done, plus gives me an idea of the calories I’ve burned.

5. Keep your brain engaged – Whenever I’m working out by myself, whether I’m walking, hiking, or at the gym, I always have my MP3 player with me. I will listen to music, or lately, I’ve been listening to audio books. Since I am the type of person who always feels like there are “things to do”, it gives me the feeling of multi-tasking. I’m exercising AND learning something new. But, that’s just me. The other day I told a friend that I was listening to an audio book while working out and he said that was the most boring thing he’d ever heard! Whether it’s music or books, keep your brain engaged. And remember – if you’re out hiking or walking and you’re listening to an MP3 player, make sure you stay alert and aware of your surroundings at all times.

6. Reward yourself – Set exercise goals for yourself and then reward yourself when you meet them. Your reward can be anything that will motivate you. For some people, that will be an special, edible treat like ice cream or a piece of cake (though, I really don’t recommend this approach). For others, it could be a new book, CD or pair of shoes. Whatever it is that keeps you motivated, setting goals and having something to look forward to can help keep the motivation up. Make the goals achievable. Depending on what type of personality you have, you may need to set multiple little goals or one big goal. Find what works for you and stick with it!

These are a few of the strategies that I use to keep myself moving and motivated. What kinds of things do you do to keep yourself motivate and inspired to exercise regularly? Feel free to share your ideas and suggestions in the comments section. I love hearing from my readers!

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