We live in a time where exercise has become easier to do either by being more accessible like having gyms and fitness centers close by or learning how to do it in our own homes. A question to ask yourself is, “does my exercise count, or is it actually helping me to reach my goals?”
It may help to define physical activity and exercise to see where they overlap and to see how they’re different. Physical activity is any movement that works your muscles and requires more energy than resting. Walking, running, dancing, swimming, yoga, and gardening are a few examples.
Exercise is activity requiring physical effort, carried out especially to sustain or improve health and fitness. Generally speaking physical activity is any movement you do and exercise is more structured and has a goal in mind.
You could easily argue that walking is both since you are moving and a good walk can improve our mental health. However, if you’re wanting to better improve your metabolic health which allows weight loss to happen, or have a specific fitness goal in mind you may want to pick up the pace and turn that walk into a jog or a run.
If you’re wondering how to truly make your exercise count follow these three tips:
Make it a priority: exercise needs to be an appointment with yourself. It won’t get done if you leave it on your daily, arbitrary list of things to do. We schedule time for doctor’s appointments, errands, or to meet up with a friend; exercise should be treated the same way if it’s ever going to turn into a habit.
It needs to be a structured routine: you’ll get more out of each exercise routine if it has a plan. You could easily split your week up into cardio days, core day, upper body day, and lower body day.
To be extra prepared the routines should already be planned out so you don’t waste time wandering around the gym or end up watching TV instead of doing your at home workout.
Your exercise should elicit some type of physical response: this could mean your breathing increases because your heart rate and lungs are working hard like when you’re running.
When you lift weights you can start to feel what is commonly called a “burning” sensation as you feel your muscles working against gravity or properly lifting a weight. And perhaps the most common one is sweating. This is just a general indicator that your body has had to work a little bit harder to complete the task at hand.
This doesn’t mean you have to trade in your daily walk; you just need to do a more structured routine in addition to it.
If it seems like it’s taking a long time to see improvement or to reach your goals double check to see if these three tips are truly in your week. Exercise is going to be the component in your lifestyle that helps you feel your best while improving your fitness.