January’s almost over. As all the talk of healthy resolutions fades, are you letting your best intentions quietly slip into oblivion? I must confess, that even I, who gets paid to help other people make healthy changes in their lives, found this first month of my simple, manageable plan to get healthier in 2014 much more challenging than expected.
This month’s goal was to add one short bout of exercise – less than five minutes each day – to my own routine. Here’s why I’m not giving up on that goal, the obstacles that challenged me and what I’m doing to overcome them. I hope this information will encourage you to join me in adding this, or some other simple, healthy habit to your own life before the first month of 2014 is gone.
As explained, in the original 12 Healthy Habits column earlier this month, a growing body of research shows that small amounts of high-intensity exercise can be just as effective as longer workouts of moderate intensity at improving key health and fitness markers like blood pressure, blood sugar levels and VO2max. And, it’s been proven true for a wide range of populations. Whether you are sedentary and overweight, active and young or have a health challenge such as Type II diabetes, you can improve your health and fitness with just several short sprints of full-on physical effort each day. The bottom line: for best results, work hard not long.
It seems simple enough. A few vigorous sun salutations here. A set of Burpees or squats there. Run up the stairs instead of riding the elevator. Yet, I achieved this goal only about half the days this month. True, I was sick for a week, but what happened on the other days? Sometimes, I was running late, other days I just forgot. Chances are, whatever your resolution, you met some unexpected hurdles too. I guess that’s the problem with new habits. If you have to think about it and remind yourself to do it, then it’s not a habit yet.
To increase my success in making short bouts of exercise a daily habit I installed Post-it note reminders in strategic places around my apartment and office. Now, before showering, I see the message on the mirror : “Quick! Exercise!” This has motivated me on a few occasions to roll my yoga mat out on the living room floor and do one of the mini-workouts I created just for this purpose.
While I’m waiting for my coffee to brew, I see a similar note stuck to the top of the machine. It turns out, I can get a set of 25 squats done in the time it takes the Keurig machine to pour me my morning Joe. As I sit at my desk writing, tension growing in my neck and shoulders, a note on my keyboard spurs me to do a quick set of shoulder and chest openers. (Watch this video and do them along with me here.) And, thanks to one word that now lives on my calendar next to my regular appointment with a client who lives on the 5th floor, “Stairs!”, I have climbed 15 more flights this month than I otherwise would have.
So while it wasn’t as easy as I’d initially imagined, I have made some measurable progress toward my healthy habit goal for January. And I’m going to keep working at it even as I shift my focus next week to February’s healthy habit of daily meditation. Will you join me?
I’d love to know how your healthy habit resolutions for 2014 are going? Leave a comment below or mention @dnainfo on twitter and use the hashtag #2014healthyhabits to join the conversation. Or post a picture on Instagram to @dnainfonyc #2014healthyhabits.
I’ll be writing in early February about the second of our 12 Healthy Habits, daily meditation. Meanwhile, “Quick! Exercise!”