January is often considered a time to reset and to consider supporting our health with lifestyle measures that are within our control. For some of us, this may mean prioritizing physical activity. Exercise guidelines related to cancer have recently been updated using Canadian and international research conducted in the last decade. There is now strong evidence that exercise improves cancer-related fatigue, health-related quality of life, physical function, anxiety and depression in people who have cancer and moderately strong evidence that supports exercise improving bone health and sleep.
Despite these known benefits, adopting an exercise program can be challenging. Although there are short-term benefits from single exercise sessions, we see the most significant benefits for our health when we exercise regularly. Here are some tips to help make exercise-related lifestyle changes sustainable and enjoyable.
Consider what makes exercise important and meaningful to you.
Some people may choose to exercise to support their mental health or sleep. Others may exercise to maintain muscle mass or strengthen bones. Find a reason that resonates with you personally. When feeling less motivated, remember these reasons. Plus, with a specific purpose in mind, exercise can be prioritized according to our time and energy in order to maximize benefits.
Little things count!
Simply avoiding inactivity improves health. Incorporating less sitting and more moving into each day can make a meaningful change in wellness. Puttering in the kitchen, doing projects in the shop, walking to the kitchen for water – all of these little activities improve health compared with being consistently sedentary.
Start with a realistic goal.
Start with something simple and easy, and do it regularly. Once you have mastered it, you can choose to add more. For example, walking at a moderate pace for 20 minutes, 3 times per week may work for you. Do that for several weeks. You may then decide you are ready to take longer walks or add a strengthening program.
Establish a routine.
Having a weekly routine can reduce stress and increase adherence. It can also help to balance different types of activities and provide the body with recovery time. Consider adding group activities to your routine for motivation and accountability.
Do enjoyable activities!
Perhaps you would enjoy walking to the coffee shop or through a lovely garden? Maybe you like a group atmosphere with music? Perhaps you love the water? Or being in nature? When we enjoy our exercise routine, it is much more likely to be sustainable. Exercise Therapists at InspireHealth can help you develop a weekly plan that incorporates enjoyable activities.
Create a back-up plan.
Most of us can expect that poor weather or low energy may interfere with our best intentions. Rather than skipping exercise, be prepared with a back-up plan. For example, if the weather is bad, perhaps go for a walk in a mall instead of outside, or walk in a swimming pool. If your energy is lower, commit to only doing the first 10 minutes of the planned exercise, and see how it goes from there. Any amount of movement will be beneficial and often getting started is the most challenging part.
Be kind and encouraging.
Our body’s needs are different day to day. The goal is to use a personalized exercise plan as an opportunity to learn, listen and respond with gentle encouragement. The Exercise Therapists at InspireHealth are glad to help you create a sustainable exercise plan based on your unique priorities and preferences. Call to book your consultation today.
Interested in learning more about the updated exercise guidelines related to cancer? Click here.