Here we are, entering 2021 with a mixed bag of emotions. We know there is light at the end of the tunnel with promising vaccines starting to be administered, but we also know that a semblance of normalcy is still months away. In the last 10 months, most of us have become well acquainted with a sense of loss of control. We no longer are the sole masters of our daily routines. With uncertainty as to how long we will remain inside our homes distanced from friends and family, you may be saying to yourself - what’s the point of a resolution?
Many health professionals would suggest that setting exercise goals in times of struggle is an absolute must. Experts in the health field at the Mayo Clinic recently published an article titled, Get Moving to Manage Stress. This article outlines the phenomenal connection between the chemical release of endorphins during exercise and a positive mood boost. They explained, “as you begin to regularly shed your daily tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you stay calm, clear and focused in everything you do.”
Here’s the rub: in the best of times, it’s common to struggle with the idea of making a fresh New Year's resolution. Most of us have been down the road of setting a goal and realizing halfway through January that it is just not happening. There is current research published last January by Strava, a social network for athletes, that highlights this pattern in great depth. Strava polled over 30 million online global activities and were able to see that January 12th was the day when most threw in the gym towel on their activity goals. Let this year’s negative impact from COVID stressors propel you towards long lasting active fitness regimes that are crucial to immediate stress relief and to your long-term health.
Further, fitness and health resolutions typically come from a place of vanity. This pressure itself can add negative connotations to fitness. However, exercise is a must and a prescription by all doctors. Goals for fitness and movement are outlined by doctors worldwide to be 75 minutes of rigorous exercise weekly plus 75 minutes of moderate exercise. Overall, becoming physically fit is proven to enhance our lives from the inside out. Strong muscles lead to strong and positive minds. So let's reframe these resolutions for 2021 and put our health first, letting the physical transformations be a bonus.
Let’s put our best (active) foot forward in 2021. Here’s how:
1) Acknowledge the obstacles that are in your way, a wonderful first step, according to Dr.Wendy Boring Bray, a behaviour counsellor who helps clients attain lifestyle changes. Typical roadblocks in today's environment are the closure of gyms or the lack of a good home exercise space. Find solutions, seek out alternative online experiences that suit your needs. If connecting with others is a motivator for you, I strongly urge you to try zoom fitness experiences. Setting up your fitness space can be as easy as throwing down your mat. Consider setting yourself up by a window to allow the natural light to come in, or by adding some decor with a plant, an aromatherapy diffuser with an uplifting scent, or a photo of a loved one nearby.
2) Set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Grab a paper and pen and write out one new goal. One of my favourite expressions for fitness, and in this case fitness resolutions, is ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ Take it slow and decide what your target is for the first week of January. Choose your movement of choice and try it out. See if it elevates your mood and energy. Then tackle week two…and three…and so on… making decisions based on how you felt after the exercise.
3) Reframe the activity you choose to participate in as enjoyable, rather than the dreaded activity on your ‘to do’ list. As well, during this time when we are focused on the current pandemic, let’s take the time to celebrate the gift of movement in our healthy, strong bodies.
Cheers to allowing movement to bring you good health and happiness in 2021!