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How to make exercise a habit

April 01, 2014 15:10 IST

How to make exercise a habit

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Shameem Akhtar

And get that sexy beach body you always wanted

These days many corporates are making exercise 'compulsory' for their workers. A gym is set up. Yoga and meditation classes are organised.

A certain entertainment allowance is given with the fond hope that some of it is spent on health-boosting activities.

Alongside, corporates organise events such as inhouse sports competitions.

Behind the altruism, there is the fervent hope that the workers remain healthy and therefore regular at work.

Does all this attention converge into assured health for the employee?

What of homemakers who feel that, since the 'burden' of household chores is upon their heads, their leisure activities must essentially be non-exerting ones?

If all of us are working so hard at health, how come it does not translate itself into beach bodies and reduced medical bills?

Shameem Akthar, yogacharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, gives you tips on how to score high on the exercise charts by becoming more regular at it.

Here, then, is how you can tote up interesting points on health and vitality....

 


Photographs: Sahil Salvi

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Daily does it

In a seven-day week, give yourself allowance for just one day off exercise. Already this means there is no psychological reason to skip it.

What happens with weekend exercise warriors, or those with a three-day-is-okay routine is that they will, if they are still new to the idea of exercise and the discipline that goes with it, bunch up all their "exerecise-off" days at one go.

Then, to come back to the routine becomes even more physically challenging. This is enough to put off the best. If you take just one day off, then you create a good "addiction" to exercise, and the high that comes from it, that even missing that one day will be terrible, and give you the sort of withdrawal symptoms that drag you back to the work-out.


Photographs: Lululemon athletica/Creative Commons
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Never choose for health reasons

Never choose a form of exercise for purely health reasons. This may sound very very surprising. But it is sound in the long run.

To choose an exercise for only health reasons (my blood pressure is high, my thyroid is messed up, I have insomnia) will mean your emotional association with exercise is already very negative.

You see it as a bitter pill that has to be and must be popped! Is it surprising that once you control your problem -- if you last till then -- you are most likely to stop exercising?!

Instead, choose an activity that is fun and to which you can look forward to. Initially it is also good to choose activities where there is a strong social network and group support.

Some activities like this are dancing, cycling (groups which have targets), games, swimming.

To choose an activity that is mind-numbing -- like treadmill running -- can pall after a while if you are not maniac about such stuff.


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Include meditation

For exercise to be impactful, it has to be focused. A good game of tennis is possibly more challenging to the whole body-mind complex than gymming.

This is because the mind has to focus on the game, the co-ordination between limbs, the ball and the whole team. This sort of activity, even where the mind is moving, but over a specific path, is actually meditative.

If you are gossiping and doing brisk walking, it will definitely be less impactful than if you did the same thing by focusing on co-ordinating your steps with your breath.

Bringing this type of focused exercise, though initially very tough, is what will hold your exercise in place.

The powerful side-effect of this is that anything else new you learn, including a language, will suddenly appear easy simply because alongside your body you are actually training your mind.

And for exercise to last, it has be first mind-training at its best.


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Rope in a partner

An ideal way to do this is to rope in someone you trust (a friend, colleague, good acquaintance, spouse, family member) to exercise along with.

In this way, usually if one falters the other will be up to prod and push ahead. Make sure however that the partner is equally motivated.

Otherwise it will have just the reverse effect.

Sometimes a lame partner will keep making excuses or find it okay to skip practice. Move away from this situation as soon as you intuit, however close you are to the person.


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Do not keep experimenting

Most of hardcore health enthusiasts have a passionate involvement around one hobby-exercise. Their other health activities will revolve around it.

It is usually beginners and newbies to exercise who will keep on moving into different classes, or different forms of exercise. What happens with this sort of loose shift is that you will never reach the depth of muscular co-ordination and tone that only comes when you push your limit in a type of activity.

For instance, if you learn to dance, you first level would be in just learning to co-ordinate and revivify rusty muscles.

The next level, which you may miss if you shift into another form of activity, is when you can up your challenge in a few moves that have been by now cleaned up and become neater.

So each stage of a particular activity can keep on pushing your limit and challenge muscles groups more. It also calls for sophisticated involvement and this aspect of the exercise is when you will be nicely "addicted" to it enough, not to have to read columns like this, to power your discipline!


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