My Tips for Becoming a Healthier You (part 2: exercise)

**please check out part 1 of this series about ways to kick-start a healthy diet!

As most people know, exercise is a key component in a healthy and strong body.  Unfortunately and for some reason I don’t understand, exercise has a common negative stigma about it…that it’s a chore to do, that it’s awful and never any fun, etc.  And though, just like anything else, there are plenty of workouts that aren’t a walk in the park, most workouts should be enjoyable.  Workouts should be hard and challenging and should provide you with a sense of accomplishment, pride, confidence, and strength.  Finishing a workout provides a feeling that can’t be found anywhere else–doing something good for your body is truly fantastic.

Here are a few basic tips for incorporating exercise into your life:

1.  Make it part a routine.  If at all possible, exercise around the same time each day.  This means that you make it a regular part of your schedule (not something you do if you “have time”), and if it works better for you, you can even mark it on your calendar or add it into your daily planner.  Once it becomes more of a habit, you’ll look forward to that time each day.

2.  Use exercise to relieve stress.  Working out can be a fantastic way to destress, trust me.  If you’re tempted to drink, smoke, or participate in another unhealthy habit to deal with stress, go for a walk, take a kickboxing class, do some push-ups, or dance in your living room instead!

3.  Lift weights!  Strength training builds muscle, and the more muscle you have the more fat you burn because the higher your metabolic rate will be.
Cardio is incredibly important for you.  It reduces risk of heart attack, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type II diabetes, helps you sleep better, strengthens your heart, increases lung capacity, increases bone density, gives you more energy, and relieves some cases of depression and anxiety, amongst many other benefits.
BUT, there is such a thing as too much cardio.  Strength training/weight lifting is essential.  Strength training protects bone health and muscle mass, plays a role in disease prevention, burns calories for up to 14 hours after the workout is complete, and so many other benefits.  I’m currently working hard to incorporate more strength training into my workout routine, and like everything else, it takes time!  It makes me feel strong, successful, confident, and despite the awkwardness of learning the basics of it, it’ll do those things for you, too!
**and ladies–you will not bulk up from lifting weights!  This is exactly why I used to avoid strength training, but I promise that lifting heavier weights will not make you “manly” or bulky in any way

4.  Fuel up before and after workouts.  There are, again, conflicting studies on whether or not working out on an empty stomach is okay.  Through the research I’ve personally done though, I believe that having something in your stomach is better, and that’s what I recommend.  Your body needs fuel to move, so eating something at least an hour before exercising is what you should aim for.  Remember that what you eat before and after working out is important, too.  One inspiring blogger wrote about this exact subject.

5.  Do something FUN!  Please don’t ever do any specific workout just because it’s a trend.  Do whatever exercise you like to do!  Try out new things–new DVDs, cycling classes, running programs, Zumba, kickboxing, biking, swimming, weight lifting classes, whatever your heart desires!  Just get that heart rate up :)

6.  Every little thing adds up in the end.  Cliche, yes, but true.  I’m not saying that just because you took the stairs at work today instead of the elevator, you can dismiss your afternoon workout.  What I am saying, is that you burned more calories taking those steps than if you had taken the elevator.  Try walking over to the drinking fountain each hour of the day while at work or crank up the music and dance around your house while you’re cleaning!  Move whenever you have the opportunity.

7.  Remember to rest.  I recommend taking at least 1 rest day each week, maybe even 2 if your body is telling you it needs a little extra time off.  Rest days are essential–you’re body needs to relax and rebuild muscle.

8.  Change it up!  Keep your body guessing and change up your weekly routine often.

9.  Be thankful that you have the ability to exercise.  If nothing else motivates me to exercise, this never fails to.  Many people aren’t healthy enough to workout or they just aren’t capable of it.  You are.  Be thankful that you have the option to care for your body and improve your health.  Please take advantage of that.

Just like the first part of this series, I feel like I could talk about this subject for a really long time.  I hope these tips help though!

How do you make working out as successful and enjoyable as possible?