5 Ways to Get Back Into Fitness

By Jennifer Thomas | January 1, 2021 | Rally Health


The new year and fitness goals pretty much go hand in hand, but COVID-19 worries and restrictions could make it hard for you to start or keep up with fitness resolutions.

Yet now is when the physical and mental benefits of exercise really can come in handy. Along with aerobic benefits, exercise is great for sleep, reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, and managing stress.

“Due to all the changes in your life, you might not have much energy left to think of exercise. But it doesn’t take much to recharge — even a 15-minute walk outside can be helpful, and provide a re-set of the mind and body,” says Sheava Zadeh, PhD, a psychologist in Sacramento.

That might mean carving out time during the workday to hop on an exercise bike, take a virtual fitness class, or just to sweep your floors.

Here are more tips on how you can get back in the fitness game:

1. Change your mind-set

Exercise can sometimes feel like a chore, but try and “think of exercise as a break from all the other stressors and all the ‘Zooming,’” says Pirkko Markula, PhD, a professor of sociocultural studies of physical activity in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation at the University of Alberta, Canada. To help make exercise a habit, pick something you enjoy doing, she says.

Markula also recommends thinking of exercise not as a way to achieve a certain “look,” but as a way to feel better, both mentally and physically. To start, set small, easily attainable goals like walking, jogging, biking, or dancing for 10 minutes each day for a week, and then increase that to 20 minutes after a week or two, Zadeh says.

2. Start the morning out right

More than half of us check our email before we even get out of bed in the morning. That might not be the healthiest behavior, but it does offer a chance to start the day on a positive note. Consider signing up for nutrition, fitness, and motivational email tips that can put some pep in your step.

If you find it tough to get going in the morning, especially when it’s chilly outside, leave your workout clothes somewhere where they’ll get nice and toasty, like near a heater. Or, if it’s safe, do an exercise that defies the season –– like swimming laps in a heated pool or signing up for a virtual yoga class. You can also find plenty of quality online workout videos like the ones offered on the American Council on Exercise’s site.

This can also be a good time to try out other healthy morning routines, like starting the day with 10 to 15 minutes of meditation. Mindfulness exercises like meditation are great for helping relieve stress and anxiety.

3. Expand the idea of exercise

Exercise can be an intimidating word. It might conjure up images of sweating on a treadmill or being barked at by a (virtual) trainer. However, exercise doesn’t have to be intense or require special equipment.

“Exercise is meant to enhance functional movement and health. That’s it,” says Alexandra Allred, fitness instructor and author of 13 Able: Exercise Therapy for Everyone. “It doesn’t mean you have to run, leap, squat, or bound. It can be done from a chair.” In fact, a five-minute stretch break can help you strengthen your muscles and avoid injury from a less-than-ideal work-from-home setup.

Start with small, manageable steps, says Alex Link, certification program manager at the American Council on Exercise, such as:

  • Taking conference calls on the go, either at home or in the office, for walk-and-talk meetings.
  • Doing lunges on the way to and from one room to the other.
  • Reading or composing emails while standing up.
  • Doing a chore like mopping the kitchen floors or raking leaves that requires a little physical exertion.
  • Getting involved in the kids’ activities like jumping rope, playing tag, or having a snowball fight.
  • Renting snowshoes, cross-country skis or ice skates through a local park district or forest preserve for an outdoor workout.

4. Get walking

Walking is a perfect, equal-opportunity activity: It’s free, can be done almost anywhere, and it works for people of many fitness levels. Going on two 15-minute brisk walks five days a week is all it takes to meet the minimum recommended amount of physical activity for adults each week. If the weather outside is too frightful, try marching in place or running on a treadmill if you have one. It might feel silly at first, but marching still counts for getting in those steps.

“If you can walk outside safely, you get the added benefits of inhaling fresh air, soaking up some sunshine, and enjoying some screen-free time,” Link says. If winter means gray skies, it’s even more important to get outside, even if just for a few minutes, every day. Proper winter attire like a pair of insulated boots and wool socks can make all the difference in being able to brave the elements. Here are some more ways to work out in winter weather. And here’s why winter workouts are real winners.

Create a common exercise goal with a friend, family member, or co-worker. When people have a shared exercise goal, that boosts motivation and camaraderie, Allred says. You can each share a spreadsheet of your progress toward your goal or your exercise minutes to help urge each other on.

5. Mark it on the schedule

Just like an important meeting, exercise becomes a habit when it’s a regular part of the schedule, Link says. To make exercise happen, etch it into your schedule. For example, you might set up a recurring alert on your calendar every day.

Maybe you designate 20 or 30 minutes (or however much time you can spare) in the morning as your fitness time. Or carve out some time around lunch for getting exercise, whether it’s taking part in an online fitness class, taking a walk around the block, or doing some jumping jacks.


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