Everything Counts! Busting Fitness Myths that Get in Our Way

Posted on Monday, May 30, 2016 by UVM Health Network - CVMC

Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH, MS, motivation scientist, is author of critically acclaimed “No Sweat! How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness.”

We have all learned to have specific beliefs about how we should exercise.

If you’re like most people I’ve talked to in the last 22 years, you probably believe that for exercise to “count” or be worth doing, you have to do it for at least 20 minutes. – and you need to break a sweat and breathe hard. This reflects what society has taught us about the right way to be physically active. And for some people, it works.

But, if this way of exercising has failed to keep you motivated, it may be the wrong way for YOU. This traditional approach is just one of an infinite number of ways you can move your body and reap the benefits.

Are you ready to bust some myths about fitness? Let’s go!

Myth #1: I must sweat and/or breathe hard to benefit from exercise.

Research now shows that physical activity doesn’t have to make us sweat or be vigorous to count, and that more moderate activities, like walking, count. In fact, walking (my favorite activity) is among the best ways to be physically active.

In 2015, the U.S. Surgeon General published a call-to-action that asked all Americans to walk more. Bottom line: Life-centered activities (including gardening, dog walking, and even housework) are valid physical activities. Exercise does not have to be strenuous, difficult, or sweaty – all movement counts!

Myth #2: I must be active for at least 20 minutes for it to count.

Again, according to research, adding up the physical activity that we do throughout our days is a great way to fit in movement. Ten minutes here, five minutes there – you get the picture. Stop judging an opportunity to move by the amount of time you have. Instead, see it and claim whatever time you have as a movement “snack” to boost energy and enthusiasm. It all adds up!

Having an “Everything Counts” Mindset Will Help You Succeed

Given the juggling we all do between our work and families, it can be hard to schedule in structured exercise, let alone get to the gym. Part of the reason why many of us have difficulty staying motivated is because we believe we have to be perfect when it comes to exercise. We now know this is not true: Any amount of physical movement is better than nothing.

Let me repeat this key point: Anything is always better than nothing.

Week 2. A New WAY: Count Everything and Choose to Move

There are an infinite number of ways to move! Count everything and choose to move in ways that work for YOU in any given moment. This new mindset is game-changing. Here’s how you can embrace it.

Choose to Move. Research shows that just getting up out of your chair more brings real and immediate feel-good benefits. Add a few extra steps to that: a walk around the block, a joyful burst of dancing, a relaxing yoga session, gardening, even (yes, really) housework, and you’re doing it.

Pay attention to how you feel: If you regularly avoid the workout you think you should be doing, think about activities you like. You are more likely to keep doing things you enjoy, so pursue your passion – whether it’s hiking, yoga, or a walk around the neighborhood after work. If sweating makes you uncomfortable (something that many people experience), choose a gentler activity.

Go on a feel-good physical activity treasure hunt every day. Choose physical activities that give you immediate positive feelings and experiences.

  • Go on a walking meeting to give you time to move and get work done with colleagues.
  • Go outside or find a quiet indoor space to walk through to give you time to move and renew yourself.
  • Close the door, put in your earbuds, and dance to move and take a boogie break for a few minutes.

It can take time to become aware of the feel-good benefits of exercise if you’re not used to noticing them. Pay attention to whatever positive experiences come your way from moving in ways that you choose – the camaraderie you have from moving with others, a jolt of joy, or feelings of pride from taking steps toward your own self-care. Visit the Everything Counts Facebook Event page for more examples and to see what your peers are doing.

Stay Tuned: Next week’s post will explore how giving ourselves permission to prioritize time for our wellbeing and self-care equals having energy for everyone else. 

Michelle Segar, PhD, MPH, MS, motivation scientist, is author of critically acclaimed No Sweat! How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness.” She is the Director of the Sport, Health, and Activity Research and Policy Center (SHARP) at the University of Michigan, and Chair of the U.S. National Physical Activity Plan’s Communications Committee. No Sweat was chosen as the #1 book in Diet/Exercise in 2015 by the USA Best Book Awards, when released it achieved the #1 bestselling Exercise & Fitness book on Amazon, and it was featured in The New York Times. Segar lives with her husband and son in Ann Arbor, and she loves walking, speaking Spanish, eating great food, and hanging out with friends and family. She ran with the Olympic Torch at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

If the ideas in the Everything Counts Program and Giveaway resonate with you and you want more, get a free chapter of No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness at: michellesegar.com/books/no-sweat/

Copyright © 2016 Michelle Segar.

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