Often, the biggest barrier to becoming more active is mental. If you’re hesitant because you think exercise will be uncomfortable or unpleasant, find strategies that will invite you to move more:
- Make your social time active; invite family members or friends to join you.
- Find activities that are fun, rewarding, or otherwise pleasant for you.
- Join a group at your fitness and activity level.
- Start small and increase your activity over time.
You may need to be creative in finding time to be active if it’s not part of your current routines.
- Be active while watching television.
- Walk during your lunch hour.
- Take the stairs instead of an elevator.
- Walk to work or walk your kids to school (or at least part way) if possible. Shifting your thinking from “I don’t have time to exercise” to “I don’t have time to sit still in a car” can help you become a more active commuter.
- Stand and move if possible while working at your computer or using your phone.
You may also need to pay close attention to how your energy levels rise and fall throughout the day to find the best times to be more active.
Online resources can help with all of this. Engage with one of these groups for advice and support
Online or remote interventions can be helpful if your schedule or preferences don’t coordinate with other options. Online dance, aerobics, yoga, qigong, and more can give you some structure and guidance.
Nancy Hepp: I was not a particularly active child or teen. I rode my bike some (around the block), swam some (a few minutes at a time in the summer), walked the three blocks to elementary school and frequently the two miles home from my high school, and I participated in gym classes (which I hated), but that was about it. I never even considered participating in sports, nor did I have much opportunity. When I was in college, I had to take two PE classes to graduate, and I dreaded them. I chose what I thought would be the easiest.
As an adult I always knew I should exercise, so I did, but mostly to fulfill that obligation. I pushed a stroller hundreds of miles when my children were little, I swam three miles a week when I had access to a pool, and I even tried weightlifting and jogging, but I didn’t stick with them. I walked to keep fit, working up from two miles a day to more than three, but I seldom got to heart-conditioning aerobic levels. The most fun I ever had when exercising was with ballroom dance, but that was only a few times a year.
Then at age 54 something clicked. Newly divorced, I set out to remake myself, body and soul. I also had to operate with a severely smaller budget than when I was married, so riding my bike to town for errands seemed like a great idea. The hills were a real challenge for the first few months, but I learned that there’s no disgrace in walking a bike up a hill. And I persevered. And then—to my astonishment—I discovered I even liked it.
For the first time in my life, I saw myself getting stronger. I watched my body transform, dropping from a size 14-16 to a 12, then a 10…and finally an 8. I’d never been a size 8 before! I saw muscle definition in my legs that I’d never had before. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen. My first year, I pedaled more than 4000 miles, something that had seemed completely unattainable for me. In my mind, such an achievement had always been for other people—I could never do something like that! Even now, I’m hardly a star cyclist—no one will ever ask me to be on their racing team—but I can get where I want to go and back, and I feel good about it.
At almost the same time, my father’s diabetes was worsening. His doctor told him to exercise, but he resisted. He felt he’d earned his retirement of watching television all day. Finally, his doctor wrote him a prescription to walk every day, which he did—1/4 mile and no more, which was not enough to improve his health. His family tried everything we could think of to get him up off his butt more, but he was adamant. A year after I got serious about bicycling, he had a stroke that left him hemi-paralyzed and unable to take care of himself. Unable to live at home, he was cared for in a nursing home, where he died seven months later. I’ll do what I can to avert that fate.
I continue my bicycling, but I have also added kayaking, snowshoeing, and as much ballroom dancing as I can find a partner for. I’ve found activities that are fun and not just a chore. I now love the feeling of a good, shirt-drenching workout, and I’m in the best physical shape I’ve ever been in. I also do 30 minutes or so of resistance training (weightlifting) and stretching every day. I cannot say that this part is fun, but I do like seeing a bit of muscle definition in my arms instead of sagging flesh. At 64, I need no prescription drugs, and I have to think that my physical activity is a big part of that.
Being active is an important part of my social life as well as my physical fitness. I enjoy riding in a group when that’s available and have joined several small cycling groups. My son and I look forward to our active outings together. I found the activities that work for me.
Stories from our cancer community of people who have made Moving More part of their lifestyle.