How To Stop Being A Couch Potato and Exercise – Saiyyidah Zaidi – Medium

exercise health motivation Aug 18, 2018

The only real way to work past your lazy nature is firstly to accept it. Once you have done so, it is easier to help working past it. This will be a slow process and will not occur overnight.

The KEY to this is finding a motivation for exercise. For many people, this is to decrease the risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and for many others, this is to lose weight and therefore gain confidence and other positive aspects that come from exercise such as endorphins and serotonin release in the brain. Different people have different motivations, however it is key to know certainly what your motivation is and have a genuine drive to achieve your goal. If the drive is not genuine and does not come from you, you will most likely continue to be not exercise.

Before we say anything else, lets just be clear, the term ‘couch potato’ is a little negative and this is no surprise because the meaning is something along the lines of “a person who watches a lot of television and does not have an active life.” You may not watch a lot of TV, but you may spend a lot of time on your phone, laptop or other device, therefore you could see yourself as a couch potato. Let’s now look at how we can change this, ok?

The following are the most common, effective tips for exercising if you feel like you are a couch potato:

  • Make it quick: Carve out a few 5 minute exercise periods throughout the day e.g. 5 minutes at breakfast, 5 at lunch and 5 at dinner. Once this becomes easy and integrated into your routine, increase the number to 10 minutes and so on. Longer is not necessarily better, therefore if quick bursts of exercise are something you find easier, it is recommended you do so.
  • Opt for convenience: Always choose the option that you will find easier, to help maintain your motivation. For example, if you choose to go to the gym, it must be convenient and not too far away, as you are less likely to feel daunted by the gym journey if it is quick. Similarly, time your exercises at a time that suits you, for example, if you are not a morning person, you do not have to exercise in the morning.
  • Walk for at least 20 minutes a day. Similarly, you could aim to take a certain number of steps per day, using a Fitbit, or a step tracker on your phone. Generally, it is said that 10,000 steps per day is a good goal, yet lazier people may find this difficult. Therefore, you could aim for half this amount, and once you have reached this goal for a few days, slowly begin increasing your goal, and more calories will be burnt, as well as your stamina increasing.
  • If walking seems too strenuous, particularly if it is uphill, nordic walking poles may make it easier as they ease strain on the joins. When Nordic walking “you use 90 percent of all muscle groups, and calorie burn is around 40 percent more than when walking normally.” (ThrillList) Therefore you in fact burn more calories in the same amount of time with a walking pole.
  • You do not need to leave the house to exercise. There are many exercises and home workouts you can do without having to commute to or pay for the gym.
  • Short circuit yourself: Circuit training and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts are two good ways to gain a lot of physical benefit in a small amount of time. The difference between them is HIIT allows for breaks, while circuit training does not. They work by keeping your heart rate up while targeting many muscle groups, often combining strength and cardio workouts. A simple example of a circuit is:push ups, jumping jacks, jump squats, planks and lunges. Each exercise lasts for 30 seconds for a specific period of time. You could possibly begin with one lap of the circuit; once you get accustomed to this you could slowly increase the amount of laps until your exercise period is around 10 minutes. HIIT burns many calories in a small amount of time, but you will also continue to burn calories as your body replaces energy and repairs muscle proteins damaged during the workout. Therefore it is very useful for those who want to stay at home and not exercise for a long time. An example of a HIIT workout for beginners is:
  • 30 seconds of squats
  • Rest for 15 seconds
  • 30 seconds of jumping jacks
  • Rest for 15 seconds
  • 30 seconds of high knees
  • Rest for 15 seconds
  • 30 seconds of arm circles
  • Rest for 15 seconds
  • Repeat

The exercises can be replaced and changed, as many HIIT workouts are available online. It is recommended you do so to prevent boredom and a burn-out, as well as preventing your body becoming accustomed to the workout and it having less effect on your body. Once you feel your stamina and motivation increasing, you can increase the amount of repeats in your HIIT workout. You can use the Tabata Time App to create and time your own HIIT workout.

  • Kettle bell swings: Kettle bell swings are an effective method of exercise that can be used in under 10 minutes a day. Either use a kettle bell, or something heavy that fits easily between your legs, and swing it forward and backward, mainly using the power of your hips. Aim for 10 repetitions (slowly build this up to 20) and do 3 sets. Once you feel like this becomes easy, add a fourth set. This is an intense and powerful workout that works the whole body and leads to stronger “shoulders, core, forearms, quads, hamstrings, glutes and back.” (Jordan Grey)
  • Work out during adverts. As someone who is likely to watch a lot of TV, you can do quick five minute circuits, incorporating exercises such as lunges, burpees, jogging, skipping and squats.
  • TV exercising: Instead of sitting on your couch, buy a fitness ball and sit on this. This will strengthen your core muscles and improve your balance; you can also use this ball when reading or working at a computer.
  • Exercises in bed: This is based upon the book “Exercising in bed” by Sanford Bennett, who felt elderly although he was only 50 years old. He recommends various exercises you can do in bed, for example: “To develop the triceps, or back muscles of the upper arms, lie on your left side. Grasp your right arm between the elbow and shoulder with your left hand. Try to pull your right arm back while simultaneously creating resistance with your left hand. Do this for a few seconds and relax. Repeat five times before switching sides. Gradually increase repetitions until you are performing 25 on each side per day.” (LiveStrong)
  • Perform household chores such as vacuum and mopping more often as these get your heart pumping and are good calorie burners. Boring, yes, but also effective!
  • Stand up: If you really do not feel like exercising, simply get off your couch and stand up. Sedentary lifestyles are risk factors for a lower life expectancy and simply standing up and walking around the house, even for a couple of minutes, can make all the difference. You can remind yourself using an alarm that goes off once every hour.
  • Ensure you get enough sleep, and ensure you power down all the technology that could possibly distract you and prevent you from having a good rest. This also allows your body time to repair, making you less likely to injure yourself during exercise.
  • Make small changes to your routine when you leave the house:
  • Do not use elevators/escalators and take the stairs, particularly upwards as this is what is helpful to your fitness. Start with one floor a day, and then slowly increase this up to as high as you can.
  • Park further from your destination to force yourself to walk a bit further
  • If you use the bus/train, get off a couple stops earlier, and walk the rest of the way
  • Walk one mile three days per week
  • Exercise in the morning: Studies show that people burn up to 20% more body fat by exercising in the morning before breakfast. Therefore, morning exercise is a surefire way to lose weight, if this is your intention, much quicker. However, the trouble with this is often getting yourself motivated in the morning. Here are a few methods to get out of bed in the morning:
  • According to a study, recalling positive memories of an exercise experience is a great way to get inspired.
  • Preparing the night before can make morning exercise more easy, as you can lay out all your clothes, drink etc, so you have more time to sleep as you require less time in the morning to get ready.
  • Try to get a good night’s sleep, therefore aim to sleep one hour earlier than you usually do, to ensure you wake up well rested and more ready for exercise, rather than being exhausted and going back to sleep.
  • Another good form of motivation is picturing your older self, and realising this version of you is dependant on the current you. What is your health like in the future? If you want to see yourself fit and healthy, it is important you put the work in now.

Exercise in the morning does not need to be rigorous if you do not want it to, as you can simply walk. Begin with short 5/10 minute walks in the morning which will cause you to slowly get more active and become healthier, and once you have become comfortable with this and incorporated it into your routine, begin increasing the time of your walks.

  • Bribe yourself: Treat yourself after every workout, for example, if you are a coffee person, do not allow yourself to drink your morning coffee until you have done your morning exercises. To create an effective bribe it must:
  • Have an immediate reward. There needs to be an immediate benefit to the workout to motivate you to complete it
  • Be something you have a urgent desire for. Without it, it should cause you some level of mental pain, for example, watching a favourite TV show.
  • No cakes, or unhealthy stuff though!

If you want to read more about how you can start exercising click here:

Sources and further reading:

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You can visit Saiyyidah’s website where she runs various challenges and courses and also blogs on entrepreneurship, personal finance, self-transformation, health and productivity among others things. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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