By Miranda Massie on January 7, 2014
Fitting in Fitness
Like many others, January is the time when I reflect on the habits –good and bad– that I have adopted over the past year. January is also when I set new goals for the year to come, particularly around nutrition and physical fitness. We tend to get a bit overzealous with our New Year’s resolutions and this can often leave us feeling inadequate and disappointed with our progress, or lack thereof.
According to the Canadian Psychical Activity Guidelines, adults between 18 and 64 should get 150 minutes of moderate (biking, brisk walking) to vigorous (jogging, skiing) physical activity per week. This equates to only 2.5 hours out of a total of 168 hours in a week. I must admit, I was taken aback by this number — it actually appears manageable!
2.5 hours is less than the length of one hockey game, about the same amount of time as a movie, or slightly longer than two undergraduate lectures. The best part of it all is that it breaks down to 20 minutes per day; a timeframe that I feel is realistic and manageable.
To give us a boost of confidence going into the New Year, I have included a list of ways to fit fitness into your day, relieving the pressure of having to set aside dedicated time to exercise.
Take a brisk 15-minute walk after two meals each day. It could be breakfast and dinner, or lunch and dinner, but adding a walk to the end of a meal makes it easy to remember and can help to dispel any lingering post-food grogginess.
Walk the stairs on your break. Most buildings on campus have a set of stairs that are most likely infrequently used. Plug in some headphones and walk up and down to get your blood flowing. A great alternative if the weather is lousy!
Capitalize on chores and housework. Perform regular tasks like mopping, scrubbing, raking or mowing at a vigorous pace to get your heart pumping. Offer to help out a neighbor for more of a workout.
Exit the bus early. For those who use transit to commute, exit the bus or train a few stops early. You can reach your 20-minute quota before you even get home. Or, come prepared to walk to meetings on the other side of campus instead of driving.
Hydrate with a little help. There is a great free App called Waterlogged that helps you track your daily water intake and will even remind you to hydrate throughout the day with an alarm that sounds like running water.
Ultimately, we are working towards reducing our risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and obesity. Physical activity is one of the largest preventive factors against chronic physical illness, and these chronic conditions are also risk factors for poor mental health. Improved physical health can promote social connectedness and self-efficacy, as well as support a sense of belonging and empowerment. As a result, we can experience elevated mood, clearer thinking capabilities and improved self-esteem, all of which are crucial to our overall positive mental health.
Here’s to a healthy New Year!
All my best,
Craft, L., Freund, K., Culpepper, L., Perna, F. (2007). Intervention study of exercise for depressive symptoms in women. Journal of Women’s Health, 16, 1499-1509.
De La Cerda, P., Cervello, E., Cocca, A., Viciana, J. (2011). Effect of an aerobic training program as complementary therapy in patients with moderate depression. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 112, 761-769.
Eriksson, S. & Gard, G. (2011). Physical activity and depression. Physical Therapy Reviews, 16, 261-268.
Yonca Bicer, S., Asghari, A., Kharazi, P., Shaygan Asl, N. (2012). The effect of exercise on depression and anxiety of students. Annals of Biological Research, 3, 270-274.
By Colin Hearne on January 7, 2014
For most people, the New Year is the perfect time to make a fresh start and make some changes. In fact, 45 percent of us will resolve to change something about ourselves (according to University of Scranton research). Unfortunately, only 8% of people can actually achieve their New Year’s goals! Why are resolutions so hard to keep? They’re hard to keep because habits can be extremely difficult to change, and we often set unrealistic goals. However, by using the right approach and following a few common sense tips, your resolutions can last beyond February and you’ll be closer to achieving your New Year’s goals.
The choice is yours
We all have our own personal New Year’s resolutions; however, one popular resolution is the promise to become more physically active. This can literally be a lifesaver. Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that with at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity per week, you can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. What a perfect place to start.
The SMART Approach
The first step to reaching any goal is to use the SMART approach. SMART goals refer to those that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Orientated. Here’s a little taste of how you can use this approach to become more physically active:
- Specific: It’s not enough to say you want to exercise this year. You need to give it a number. For example, “I will visit the gym three times a week” or “I will walk to work four times a week,” or even “I will go for a 15-minute walk around campus after my lunch five days a week.”
- Measurable: Now that you’ve set a specific goal, you need to establish a way to measure your progress. For example, keep a physical activity diary or record how many miles you cycle, or start using a pedometer. Being able to measure your progress helps you move toward the larger goal.
- Achievable: Can you achieve your goal? Be real to yourself and think hard about what you really want to accomplish. It will save you a lot of time and frustration down the road, and you’ll be much more motivated to reach the end result.
- Realistic: Basically, start where you are, and increase your goals accordingly. If you have never run a five-kilometre race, it’s probably not a wise goal to say you want to run a marathon. While that may be your long-term goal, in the short-term you may want to aim for the 5K and take it from there.
- Time Orientated: Deadlines. Even the word gives people shivers! Deadlines can also be an ally. Give yourself a time frame for your goal. Six months? A year?
Making it stick
Setting goals – no matter how specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time orientated – are easy. Sticking to them is not. Here are some tips to help you stay the course in the weeks and months to come.
- One at a time: You have the rest of the year to pursue other goals. Set yourself up for success, and start with one resolution on January 1. Take small steps. Don’t be overwhelmed by wanting to run a marathon … take it one kilometre at a time.
- Reward yourself. By accomplishing and celebrating small steps, you’ll stay on track, focused, and positive. Have a friend for support. It’s easier to get to the gym on a regular basis if you have someone there waiting for you. If you can’t find a friend, enlist your family in helping you reach your goal.
- Enjoy: There is no one standard time period for a habit to form – it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days, according to habit formation researchers from the University College London. The key is to focus on the activity or process that will take you toward your goal, rather than the goal itself. For example, if your goal is to participate in a 10K run by the end of the year, focus on being able to go a little bit further, and a little bit faster, every time you go out for a jog.
- Don’t be discouraged: If you slip up, don’t abandon your resolution. Skipping a session one evening is not the end of your journey. It’s just a temporary setback. Learn from the slip, and get back to your new activity habits.
- Be kind to yourself. You’re more likely to abandon your resolution when you’re stressed or overwhelmed, so set some time every day for yourself. Try meditation, yoga, reading a book, or just going for a walk. The more practice you have being still and calm, the more successful you’ll be for each step of achieving your goals.
Making SMART resolutions, staying focused, and enjoying the process will not only get 2014 off to a great start, but will also help make the coming year the best yet. Give yourself a head start by signing up for a free Healthy UBC workshop titled ‘Laughter Yoga- an Introduction’ on January 17th 2014, 12-1pm, in Henry Angus Room 254. This workshop will help you put the ‘fun’ into functional!