One of the best tips I have for you to stay happy healthy and sane... is to make time for exercise. I know you've heard it a zillion times before and we all know the benefits of exercise, so why do we keep making excuses?
Well interestingly, it may not be your fault. Research tells us that willpower or self control is a limited resource and a lack thereof comes about from mental exhaustion... not physical exhaustion as you may have thought.
So forget all the usual excuses, just blame the kids! Well actually, the good news is, you don't have to. You can improve your willpower so mental fatigue doesn't get the better of you. Then once you start exercising, the mental fatigue will lift so it becomes much easier to keep at it.
Regular exercise not only helps protect you from a plethora of disease, but it can also dramatically improve your mood and help you manage stress more effectively. And it provides 'you time'. Time to be present with yourself, paying attention to your breathing, how your body feels, the environment. It's your own little time out. As a parent, that's priceless!
So how do you strengthen your willpower and get active? Here are 4 simple steps...
1. Reduce the amount of unnecessary stress in your life
It's unlikely you're able to offload on to anyone else. So the next best thing is to dump stuff. Simply let it go! If the house isn't perfect, if your kids forget to unpack their school bags again, the world won't stop. Ask yourself, "will it matter in a year?" If the answer is no, don't worry about it today.
2. Play mind games
Now I don't mean the mind games you play with your partner, but instead, challenge your brain. Do crosswords, play memory card games with your kids or log on to one of the many great websites out there like www.fitbrains.com or www.lumosity.com. You'll improve your memory, attention span, problem solving skills and help combat mental fatigue.
3. Get more sleep
You know it's important for more reasons than I can fit into this blog, so turn off that TV a little sooner and hit the sack. And the bonus is that once you're exercising regularly, this one becomes a cinch.
4. Manage your blood sugar levels
Now this is a biggie... self control or discipline requires energy and if you have low blood glucose (or blood sugar) levels, this can diminish your ability to follow through with an act of self control.
But don't get out the chocolate just yet. High glycemic foods (foods with carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose rapidly into the bloodstream) can cause your glucose levels to spike. In response your body releases insulin, which causes the oversupply of glucose to be removed from the bloodstream and stored in the muscles and liver... and bingo, glucose in your bloodstream drops again. This type of energy boost immediately prior to, during or post exercise is great for sustained energy and refueling glycogen stores in your muscles, but not good at all if you're not using that extra supply of energy.
Just remember the glycemic index of a food is only the start to assessing its impact on your blood sugar levels. The glycemic load is a more comprehensive indicator as it goes beyond measuring how quickly that carbohydrate turns into sugar, but also factors in the complete carbohydrate content of the food. For more information on the GI and GL content of food, visit The University of Sydney's GI Website.
So don't put it off any longer - get out there. You don't need any fancy equipment, just dust off those old runners and head out the door. Even if you don't feel like it, set yourself a goal to just start.... say 5 minutes. If you're feeling ok at that point, continue for another 5. You'll soon be amazed at what you can achieve. The key is to set small goals at first. Don't overwhelm yourself with weekly or monthly goals until the habit's well established. Focus on today and see how you feel once you've achieved your goal. Soon enough you'll wonder how you lived without it!
Let me know what works to boost your own motivation and post a comment below.