Photo: Jacob Postuma on Unsplash
1. Daily changes
A great way to get more exercise in is to make a conscious effort to be more active in your everyday lifestyle. Some changes you could make include walking or biking to places instead of driving. If that seems too drastic or isn’t a viable option, you could make small changes such as parking your car further away from a building, always taking the stairs instead of an elevator, extending your route when walking your dog, or taking a walk around campus between classes. If your job requires you to sit all day, or you’ve been sitting and studying for hours, take short breaks to walk around (this can also help clear your head and increase productivity). Little changes like these can make a big difference, and are easy ways to start being more active and make you feel better.
2. Start small
The common recommendation is to try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day, but when you’re just starting out this can seem intimidating and might even discourage people from exercising at all. To avoid feeling discouraged, try starting small. If 30 minutes sounds too difficult, start with 10 minutes. Short workouts are perfect if you don’t have much time, and also allow you to work your way up to longer or more intense workouts. When you first start out, you may only be able to work out for 10 minutes a couple times a week, and that’s okay. In fact, that makes it even more rewarding when you can complete longer or more difficult workouts, because you know you worked hard to get stronger and build up your endurance.
3. Make it fun
Exercise should make you feel healthy and strong; it shouldn’t be something you dread or try to avoid. Try out different kinds of workouts until you find something you enjoy and to which you can look forward. If you’re having fun, you’ll want to exercise more, the time will pass quicker, and it won’t feel like a chore. If it’s a nice day outside, go for a hike or to a local playground--or just do your regular workout in the park or in your backyard so you can enjoy the weather while you exercise. If you’re stressed and don’t want to do a high-intensity workout, try yoga for a more relaxing option. Dancing is another way to have fun while you exercise. There are so many different ways to workout, and finding what you enjoy (or switching up your routine and trying different activities so you don’t get bored) keeps you more engaged and is more enjoyable.
4. Make it a group activity
Some people prefer to exercise alone, but others need a sense of camaraderie or a social atmosphere to motivate them. If you’re in the latter group, ask some friends to go to the gym or work out with you, or form a team to play sports. If you like to be around other people when you exercise, you can also try taking a class (for example, a Zumba or spin class). You can also work out with a trainer who can offer advice about what exercises will help you achieve your desired results, and can help you create a workout plan. A trainer will also ensure you complete your workouts properly and safely, in addition to providing the motivation and support of a workout partner. Working out with other people is also an opportunity for some friendly competition, and might compel you to push yourself harder.
5. Treat yourself to “me time”
Alternatively, if you do want some time alone, view working out as a time for you to clear your head and focus on yourself. Get rid of distractions (like your cell phone), make a fun workout playlist, and buy cute workout clothes that you’ll want to wear. Exercise is a great stress-reliever and makes you feel more energized, and you deserve that time to focus on your mental clarity and well-being. This way you can look forward to working out as your “me time” when you don’t have to worry about work or school.
6. Take advantage of amenities
Gyms may be more accessible than you think. Many schools and universities have gyms, fitness centers, or pools that you can use for free. This is especially convenient if you’re on campus all day and have some free time between classes. Likewise, some college dorms and apartment complexes have gyms and equipment that you can use. There may even be some schools or health clubs near you that allow you to work out for free. It’s worth looking into so you can take full advantage of the amenities offered. You can save money with these options, or at least get more comfortable and familiar with the machines and equipment if you decide you want to join a bigger gym.
7. Ditch the gym membership
If social anxiety, fear of gyms, or the price of a gym membership is what’s keeping you from your workout goals, you can easily forgo the gym and work out at home. You can buy workout videos or subscribe to websites that provide workouts, but the most convenient way to work out at home is to search videos on YouTube. YouTube is filled with tons of free videos, and you can try out different channels to see which trainers or types of workouts you prefer. You can find workouts of all kinds (barre, kickboxing, cardio, strength training, etc.), various intensities (high intensity interval training, low impact, beginner vs. advanced), and different durations (from five minutes to over an hour). Many of the trainers explain the proper way to perform the exercises and even offer modifications if you can’t complete all the movements yet. You can buy basic equipment such as dumbbells, a medicine ball, or resistance bands to make the workouts harder, but a lot of the videos don’t require any equipment. Some of the videos even suggest alternatives if you don’t have equipment, such as using towels or paper plates as sliders, or using cans of food or water bottles as weights.
Working out may seem intimidating at first, but hopefully these tips will encourage you to feel confident enough to start your workout journey. Exercise is a great way to improve your mental and physical health, and it should be fun and stress-free--not something to be dreaded. Just remember to be kind to your body and be patient if some exercises are too difficult at first or if you don’t see desired results right away. Whether you work out alone or with other people, at home or in the gym, just remember to have fun with it and enjoy yourself!
Erin Azzopardi is a twenty-two-year-old senior at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She is majoring in English and minoring in French Studies. When she isn't studying, you can find her listening to music, reading, or watching her favorite shows. Her future goals include traveling and becoming a published author.