The holidays are a great time to get life hacking! If you are unfamiliar, Wikipedia states, “Life hacking refers to any productivity trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method to increase productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life.” We could all use a few extra minutes in our day, which is why experts from Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) are providing the following tips to focus on getting active and staying fit through this time of year.
Barriers to Being Active and How to Defeat Them
• Stress – Whether you are dealing with holiday stress, caring for a sick loved one or up against a work deadline, you may feel you can’t handle one more thing, including exercise. But taking time out to go for a brisk walk or workout is one of the best things you can do during times of intense stress. Exercise helps alleviate stress, anxiety and depression and helps boost your mood, enabling you to cope with whatever you’re facing. Even a short workout is better than nothing.
• Unrealistic Expectations – Novice exercisers get frustrated when they expect big results too soon after starting a fitness program. Because they haven’t lost a huge amount of weight or developed six-pack abs after only a week or two of exercise, they throw in the towel. To avoid this mistake, set realistic goals and practice extreme patience. It takes at least six weeks of regular exercise and sometimes more for physiological changes to kick in.
• Overtraining – Demanding daily workouts without scheduled rest won’t help you reach your goals faster. Overtraining occurs when the exercise load is excessive related to the amount of time allowed for recovery. A day or two off from vigorous exercise each week is recommended for rest and recovery. This can be done through a combination of scheduling rest days into your fitness plan and alternating hard and easy workouts.
• The Unexpected – You were going to walk after work, but now you’ve been asked to work late. Or perhaps you planned to swim, but then you find out that the pool is closed for maintenance. Life happens, and you can either throw up your hands and say, “forget it,” or accept it and roll with it. Resilience is your ability to bounce back quickly from life’s surprises and setbacks. Practice good resilience strategies by practicing good self-care, such as eating right, sleeping well, and exercising regularly, along with cultivating good relationships, practicing optimism, taking decisive action, etc.
• Negative Self-Talk – “I’m so lazy, I’ll never be fit;” “I didn’t even exercise once this week;” “I’m such a loser.” Would you talk to a friend or loved one this way? Negative self-talk only destroys your confidence and motivation to the point where you can’t visualize success. The next time you recognize a critical thought, stop it and replace it with a positive thought, like this: “I’m so proud of myself for walking at lunch time today. It took a lot of effort, but I did it.” Practice intentionally giving yourself positive feedback and watch your motivation soar.
Life Hacking Tips to Being More Active
• Start with a Heart-to-Heart – Get the whole family on board! Sit down with your spouse or partner and share the reasons why you want your family to spend more time moving and less time sitting around.
• Focus on Fun – Look for fun ways to be active as a family by appealing to their sense of adventure. Suggest going to the playground, swimming, bowling, canoeing, or hiking. Through these types of experiences, families can learn that being active is much more fun and rewarding than sitting in front of a computer or TV screen.
• Encourage Active Play – Adults and children alike benefit from active play and unstructured time for recreation, discovery and enjoyment. Whether or not you have a yard, keep a simple supply of basic sports equipment on hand, such as balls, mitts, badminton racquets and birdies, hula hoops and Frisbees®. If you don’t have outdoor space to play at home, take your gear to a local park, school or community center for some old-fashioned family fun. If your family loves video games, opt for systems that involve physical activity. While this is no substitute for regular vigorous exercise, these interactive games are more beneficial than traditional video games that involve only finger and wrist movements.
• Limit Screen Time – Average daily screen time for kids ages 8-18 is over the top with 4.5 hours of watching TV; 1.5 hours spent in front of the computer; and 1 hour spent playing video games. That comes to almost 7 hours a day spent in front of the screen. Prolonged screen time has been linked to an increased risk of developing serious medical problems, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and metabolic syndrome, even if exercise is involved. Experts recommend limiting screen time to 2 hours a day or less outside of work or homework; and that applies to grown-ups too.
• A Lasting Gift – Set a good example for your family by limiting your own screen time and becoming as active as possible. Parents are powerful role models. Chances are good when your kids see you having fun working out, they’ll want to join you. Helping your family move more and sit less is a powerful act of love. A lifelong habit of physical activity will create healthier and happier families, and may even expand your longevity. What better gift to share with the ones you love?