You finally wake up after hitting your snooze alarm for the third time. You realize you just barely have time to get ready for work and, because of your late start, you have also missed the only opportunity in your day to fit in a workout. That all too familiar feeling of disappointment strikes again.
If you have been trying to start an exercise routine but feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to fit everything in, you’re not alone! Society constantly pressures us into choosing between one important activity and another and what we often eliminate first are the activities in which we prioritize ourselves. This is particularly true when it comes to exercise.
Studies have shown that not only is exercise important to our mental health, it may be essential to helping us maintain positive mental wellness. According to the Mayo Clinic, exercising for 30 minutes three to five times per week may contribute significantly to improving depression and anxiety-related symptoms.
Finding time to exercise does not have to be an overwhelming task. It can be incorporated into your weekly schedule in a way that feels comfortable for you. The following steps will assist you in managing your time in a way that accounts for healthy and realistic incorporation of exercise.
Step One: Track how you are spending your time. You may be surprised to realize you have an hour or two of spare time throughout the day. Take a week to be mindful of how you are spending your time. Maybe you spend two hours every evening catching up on your favorite TV shows or scrolling through social media on your phone. Don’t worry—you don’t have to give up these activities entirely, but instead of curling up on the couch, go for a walk while you scroll or complete an at-home workout while you watch your television show.
Step Two: Consider your interests. If you hate walking on the treadmill, take a walk outside! Looking for something fun and different? Revisit your childhood by jumping rope! Don’t be afraid to get creative in the ways you incorporate exercise into your weekly routine. And remember, you don’t have to spend long hours in the gym to be able to reap the positive mental health benefits of exercise.
Step Three: Set realistic goals for yourself. Once motivation has struck, it can be tempting to jump straight into the deep end, but this can quickly lead to burnout. Instead, take small steps toward your long-term goal. For example, if you ultimately want to work out for 60 minutes/day, five days per week, start out by exercising for 30 minutes three days per week and gradually build upon that until you hit your overall goal. You can evaluate progress at the end of each week and adjust as necessary.
Adjusting to change in your routine can be daunting, especially with an already busy schedule. Remember to be gentle with yourself during this process. If you’re struggling to remain accountable for the changes you want to make, know you are not alone and that there is no shame in reaching out for help!
Outreach Teen & Family Services is a nonprofit, confidential counseling service. We offer programs to youth ages 5 to 21, parents and families in a welcoming environment.
www.outreachteen.org. 412-561-5405. This column is partially underwritten by the Mt. Lebanon Police Association.