You strive so hard to live healthy, and staying fit is part of that. But sometimes, you may feel like you're not giving your workout your 100 per cent. Maybe you exercise begrudgingly when you'd rather be doing something else, skip a workout and feel guilty, or you don't quite feel energized and pumped after a fitness session. A fitness routine is successful when you enjoy it and stick to it. So why not turn exercise into a habit rather than a hardship? Here are six strategies to make physical activity a fun, rewarding and convenient proposition, based on the latest fitness findings.
1. Don't look in the mirror
Women who worked out while they could watch themselves in a gym mirror felt worse afterward, suggest findings published in the journal Health Psychology (June 2003). The research shows that they felt less calm and more fatigued compared to those who didn't have a mirror to taunt them.
2. Pick your own peak time
Theories abound about the ideal time to get moving: Exercise physiology research about circadian rhythms suggests that late afternoon is an optimal time for exercise, because that's when body temperature and blood sugar levels are highest and muscles are warmed up. Sleep researchers advise against evening exercise because it may interfere with sleep. However, fitness psychologists argue that exercising when it's most convenient -- that is, when you have the time and the energy -- is best because then you're more likely to make a habit of it. So early birds, night owls and busy bees alike should listen to their bodies and establish their own peak workout time.
3. Write it down
Apparently, journaling is not just a tool for dieting success, according to Miriam E. Nelson, Ph.D., author of The Strong Women's Journal (Penguin, December 2003). In her new book, Nelson reports that women who set goals and reach them tend to keep a journal, which she suggests helps them stay committed to lifestyle and fitness goals.
4. Exercise for the love of it, not for "results"
Choose an activity you enjoy and keep it up it for that reason. Studies have shown that people who exercised to improve their physical appearance didn't stick with it as long as others who just did something they liked doing.
5. Be flexible
Some unexpected snags in your schedule may make it impossible for you to do your routine 60-minute workout. Research now shows that squeezing in a few 10-minute sessions instead can be more manageable and equally beneficial. In a pinch, a mini workout is better than nothing, and you won't lose momentum by missing one workout.
6. Take advantage of your hormones
Exercising later in your cycle (after ovulation) fuels more weight loss than working out at the start of your cycle, Australian researchers have found (European Journal of Applied Physiology, November 2003). They suggest that the effect is thanks to soaring levels of estrogen and progesterone, which increase fat-burning, thereby providing more energy. So if you're going to miss a few workouts, now you know the most forgiving time to do it.
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