Health guidelines recommend that everyone get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.
Unfortunately, current estimates suggest that a large percentage of adults do not meet this goal. Of adolescents aged 11-17, approximately 80% don’t get enough daily physical activity.
Not only does this contribute to weight gain, but it can also increase your risk for developing:
● Heart disease
● Type 2 diabetes
● Joint problems
● Chronic pain
● Anxiety and depression
● Weakened immune system
● Some types of cancer
Barriers To Getting More Exercise
There are many potential reasons why people may not be able to get enough exercise or make changes in their exercise habits.
Commonly reported reasons include:
● Lack of time
● Financial constraints
● Lack of access to an appropriate facility or equipment
● Fear of injury
● Inability to stay motivated
● Lack of knowledge or support
Another possible explanation for why people may be unable to increase their physical activity is because they hold misconceptions about what counts as exercise.
Many people feel like they have to join a gym or buy expensive equipment to start exercising. They might be intimidated by the vast array of machines, classes, and workout plans.
They may believe that exercise requires a big time commitment that they can’t fit into their schedule or that they have to push their body to the point of exhaustion to get any benefit.
Even if they want to change their habits, they might struggle to modify their routine in a significant way.
A Simpler Strategy
Instead of trying to overhaul your entire exercise routine, consider making small and manageable changes to what you already do.
A new study published in October 2022 suggests that small changes in activity intensity and duration can have a powerful impact on your health and fitness.
For example, instead of taking a casual 15-minute stroll around the neighborhood, walk at a faster pace to cover the same distance in 10 minutes or less. Or walk for a longer distance—not so much more that you burn yourself out and lose your motivation, but enough to make the activity slightly more challenging and stimulating.
While doing yard work or household chores, make an extra effort to do it at a slightly faster rate or for a little bit longer.
These small tweaks in intensity and duration can often be much easier than trying to make dramatic changes to your schedule and habits.
Big Health Benefits From Small Changes
This research adds to a growing body of evidence that small changes in your health behaviors can greatly impact overall health and well-being.
By just focusing on being a little bit more intentional and effortful in your activities, you can experience significant improvement in heart health, VO2 max (the body’s capacity to process oxygen), and body weight.
Small changes in your diet, such as adding bigger servings of vegetables to your meals, can help reduce your risk for heart disease, improve blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol.
Shedding just 5% of your excess body weight (10 pounds for a 200-pound person) can lead to less chronic pain, improved energy levels, and can even reduce the risks associated with cancer.
These changes, while small in the short term, can lead to long-term improvements in overall health.
So don’t underestimate the power of small steps and incremental changes in your diet, physical activity, and lifestyle. If you are not able to make large leaps, taking many small steps can add up quickly and ultimately bring you to a healthier, happier, and longer life.