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Remove the Couch and What Happens to the Couch Potato?

Preread Note: This post is not being written for people who lead a very active lifestyle and are physically fit. This post is also not for people who are committed to a sedentary lifestyle and feel absolutely no compunction to change. I hope at some point that is no longer true. Rather, this post is targeted to those who know they need to incorporate fitness into their lives but don't have the motivation or knowledge to do so.

If we took away tvs, phones, and other digital entertainment, what would we have left? THE COUCH!

If you remain on the couch long enough you turn into a couch tomato, soft and mushy. Why does it have to be this way?

Blame our ancestors. Our predecessors had to hunt and gather to feed themselves and their families. Food was a precious commodity that was obtained through hard work. Many cultures continue to survive this way. In the 'developed' world where we value convenience and variety, we usually don't work hard to get our food (farmers are an exception). Even if you can't afford much, there are an abundance of food banks and kitchens that provide free food at least in populated areas. Note: this is not always the case for small town America.

Needing food for survival gives us an excuse to consume calories, albeit good or bad.

Unfortunately, fitness and movement are no longer automatic parts of our lives. There are professions where you can stay fit by just doing your job such as; roofing, landscaping, mail delivery, appliance and furniture delivery, but most of us aren't employed in such positions. You have to work at fitness on your own time which means fitting it in with everything else on your plate.

Everyone is busy, especially if you are working and have responsibilities such as child or elder care, not to mention necessary tasks like laundry, house cleaning, and food shopping. It requires a special commitment to stay fit. It is far too easy to neglect this and make excuses for remaining inactive. Fitness appears descretionary - your life won't change if you don't prioritize it. However, one day you may wake up and realize that isn't true. Although it is never too late to change, the earlier in your life you prioritze fitness, the better your life will be. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that eating healthy but not exercising or vice versa is not sufficient. These are the 2 pieces in the 2-piece puzzle and both are required for good health.

As a personal trainer, I have coached different kinds of individuals. People who are being forced to exercise and eat better will try but usually do not succeed because their motivation is external. They participate because they feel they should or they are being influenced by others. Usually these individuals don't stick with an exercise program for the long term.

If you don't prioritize fitness it will always go to the bottom of the 'to do' list. If you have to put it on a 'to do' list, it may mean that it is just another task to complete today.

If you fall into a 'resistance to exercise' category back-up a bit. Read on if you want to evaluate where your resistance is coming from and how to start to change. These are necessary precursors towards the ultimate goal of becoming fit.

back a step
Taking a step back is a good thing!

1. Start by evaluating your current mindset towards exercise and activity. Be realistic and honest with yourself. Document how you feel. No one else has to see this.

2. Try to project yourself into the future. Do you want to remain active and mobile in middle and old age? Do you want to avoid illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, which are at epidemic levels in the older US population? Do you want to be taking so many meds that you need a med-management system?

If you are fortunate, you will get older and if you do, I hope you want to live a carefree and fun life. Quality of life means avoiding a multitude of medications /doctor/pharmacy visits and struggling with mobility. I realize it is hard to project into the future when you are feeling relatively healthy now but an unhealthy lifestyle will most likely catch up with you as you age.

3. Once you have fessed up to where you honestly are, you need to identify the physical and emotional obstacles that are preventing you from moving forward. Evaluate the opportunities and capabilities you have. Capability refers to the physical and psychological capacity to do a behavior. Opportunity describes all the factors external to you that prompt a behavior or make it easier (COM-B (Michie, van Stralen & West 2011). It is a good idea to document these obstacles. You can't begin to overcome obstacles if you don't know what they are. Here are some very common ones that I have heard over and over.

  1. I don't have time.

  2. I am fearful. What if I fail? What if I can't do it? What if I hate it?

  3. Family or friends are sabatoging me because they don't want me to get healthy and fit. They are not supportive.

  4. I have medical issues that prohibit me from exercising or I have physical limitations and feel incapable. I lack confidence.

  5. I can't afford a gym or membership to a club.

  6. It takes too long from start to finish.

  7. I don't like change of any sort.

  8. I hate my body and am embarrassed to wear the proper clothing.

  9. I can't imagine having to do this for the rest of my life.

  10. It's hard and boring. I don't want to get sweaty and breathless.

Don't feel alone. You aren't. These are very common concerns. Forget all of the stereotypes about exercise. There is no single solution for everyone. The important step is getting started and enjoying or appreciating it enough to stick with it. The benefits are numerous and include:

  • Increased endurance

  • Increased energy level

  • Reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer

  • Weight management

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Strong muscles and bones to make activities of daily living (ADLs) easier.

  • Mental health - the mind-body connection is real!

  • Reduced anxiety, stress

If you have read this entire post, I hope it means you are ready to make a positive change in your life. I will be focusing my next post on overcoming the obstacles you face and getting started on the yellow brick road to fitness.

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