Doing what you enjoy is a better motivator for exercising and it helps you stick with it!

Activities of daily living such as gardening, walking your dog, and playing your children “count” and even just sitting less can be of benefit to your health and wellbeing. Movement does not have to be vigorous or make us sweat to count.

The scientific community has given us the green light to accumulate activity we do throughout the day instead of having to do it all at once. This real world fitness model is more life centered. It allows you to tailor your movement to fit who you are and how you live instead of the other way around.

Watch the video below or read the transcript that follows. Watch more physical activity videos at this link. 

About the Instructor: Connie Tompkins, PhD, Associate Professor of Exercise Science at the University of Vermont. She has expertise in the prevention and treatment of pediatric obesity. She is also a mom to two very active boys (8 years old and 10 years old). She is a firm believer that small behavior changes can lead to big results.

Connie Tompkins: I am an associate professor of exercise science at the University of Vermont. I’ve been here in Vermont for seven years and with UVM for the entire seven year period. Today I’m here to talk to you about ways that you can fit physical activity into your life. Really, sort of driving home that everything counts. It doesn’t have to be on a treadmill, it doesn’t have to be necessarily at a gym. Walking to and from your car counts as being physically active.

If you were wondering, well I thought this was supposed to be exercise, and we are going to do … I’m going to go through a couple of different exercises, but I want … I thought, I should wear workout clothes, I should wear exercise clothes. That’s sort of expected. I wanted you to see that you can do this in your office no matter what kind of clothes you’re wearing. The only thing I switched was out of some heels and also some flip flops that I have to walk to and from my car into some tennis shoes. I would suggest one way that you can make it easy on yourself, keep a little bag maybe with some tennis shoes, socks, and maybe some deodorant in case you work up a sweat and you want to not get rid of your coworkers when you come back in.

I’m going to start with thinking about why did you start exercising? When was the first time you exercise? Likely in PE when you were growing up. Or, maybe you’re still exercising today. Thinking about that transition from being a child and exercising or being physically active, maybe it was part of PE, or maybe it was just playing around in the neighborhood. How have you made the transition into adulthood? Have you kept exercise as part of your life? If you have, why? If you have not, why not? What’s your experience been with exercise? Do you love it? Or do you hate it? Or are you kind of like, eh, some things are okay, and some things I really enjoy doing, but they’re probably not exercise.

I want you to think, most people will try to stick with an exercise program or start an exercise program with a negative meaning behind it or negative feelings behind it, in a way that it’s not personal to them, it’s because I don’t like the way I look, so that would be sort of that negative feeling. Even though you’re wanting to look better, the impetus in why you’re starting the exercise program is not necessarily a positive feeling for you. Maybe your doctors told you to start exercising so that your blood pressure, help the blood pressure, it will help your cholesterol come down, and it will, but does that have meaning for you? Is that something that would help you sustain it over and over, day after day? Likely not, because you won’t see the blood results for the next six months, or you’re not going to see a change in the way you physically look for some time.

You have to think about what is it about physical activity that’s keeping me in it, or that’s keeping me from it? I want you to think about it. Do you see physical activity as a chore, or do you see it as a gift? I’m going to try and come up with some different ways so you can view it as a gift for yourself. For us to sustain a behavior or to begin a behavior, we have to view it as positive. I want you to think about what are some different physical activities that you’ve done that you dislike, or that you’ve liked? Almost think about going down a list. Are you in a kickball team sport activity? Walking, do you enjoy walking? Do you enjoy running? Do you enjoy gardening? Because gardening would be considered a physical activity. Anything is better than sitting and that’s where a lot of the research is focusing now. Not necessarily on the exercise you’re doing, it’s just not sitting. Not being sedentary. Standing is better than sitting. That’s the first step.

Also, thinking about do you typically choose activities when you start an exercise program and when you’re keeping up with your exercise program, that make you feel good? If you know, okay, well spinning class, you know it’s good for you, sure. It’s healthy, but is it something that you enjoy, or are you sort of doing it because you know it’s good, you know you’ll see results, but you view it negatively?

I want you to think about what are some things that you do in your daily life that almost don’t feel like physical activity? This would be considered your opportunities to move. There’s this book that I was given when I was asked to do this, No Sweat. It’s thinking about ways to view physical activity as a positive, and also finding opportunities to move within your day. If it’s walking from your car up to your office or to your specific building. Maybe it’s meetings. How could you sort of sneak in physical activity in there? Is it parking further away, or maybe it’s taking the stairs up to the seventh floor from the fourth floor? Those are little ways to sneak physical activity and opportunities for you to move.

I know a lot of people think, well the guidelines … and they technically are, the guidelines are 30 minutes, 5 days a week, of moderate to vigorous physical activity. What does that mean exactly? On a scale of 1 to 10 … I’m not sure you can see this, but a 5 or a 6, so this is how hard you feel like you’re working when you’re moving. That would be considered moderate activity. And then up the scale towards the 10 would be considered vigorous. Now, a lot of people think, well I need to do 30 minutes all at the same time, and they’ve found that that’s absolutely not true. Another thing is that they put out, all right, well I can break it down into 10 minute [inaudible 00:07:12], which is absolutely the case, you can do 10 minutes. Then, you start to shoot for, all right, well I don’t have 10 minutes. That’s okay. Doing five minutes of something is better than doing five minutes of nothing.

I brought a couple of different props or exercise little tools that I actually keep in my office for when I’m dressed like this, when I don’t have a chance to go out for a walk or a run. It’s a way to get something in within my work day, because I have young children at home, the afternoon is kind of a mess when pickups, kids activities, and then dinner, bath, you know. Before you know it, it’s 9:00 or 10:00 and another part of wellness is getting some sleep. I find that it’s easiest for me to fit in physical activity within my work day. I would also sort of agree that your employer values physical activity for your employees since they’re putting on this huge promotion, and they value wellness. They want to you see you, as an employee, happy and healthy. One, why? Because they likely care about your well being, but two, there’s a ton of research that shows that happy, healthy employees are more productive. I know as a patient, and I bring my kids as patients too University of Vermont Medical Center, that I want the people who interact with my children to be happy and healthy themselves. Or else the results are not going to be good for me, my wellbeing, or for my children.

I brought this. This is just a little elastic band that you can keep at your desk. Stick it in a bag, stick it with your tennis shoes if you switch shoes, especially in the winter. I’m sure a lot of you wear in your snow boots and switch into some different shoes. Throw a pair of sneakers into there as well. Or you could sort of do this stuff in socks or barefoot. I was going to do a couple little moves using this. For me, the easiest is to put it right around my ankles. So it’s right around my ankles and a lot of times I’ll stand up and just move your leg out. Side to side. That’s it. That’s considered a muscle strengthening activity. Then I would switch sides. How could I make this different? Put my leg going backwards. You start to feel it in different parts of your legs, and you’re like all right, it’s still not enough, I know that’s not really physical activity. It is. Anything that’s not sitting, as long as you’re moving, is considered physical activity.

I would say this is a relatively inexpensive, couple dollars, sort of resistance bands. There’s different resistance to get them lighter or heavier, that might be worthwhile in investing in. Or maybe you’re in an office suite or you work with some other people pretty closely. Buy one. Buy one and keep it hanging on the wall and you sort of check it out and share it among other people. I know in some of the other videos there’s been these resistance bands. Again, they sell these on their own, it can be a resistance tube, or just this elastic band that comes in different resistance weights. That would be considered physical activity.

I think it’s hard to drive home how little things make a difference. Last week, I was at the American College of Sports Medicine meetings where all the professionals that care about exercise and it covers public health, it covers nutrition, it covers sort of the whole spectrum on wellness. The week before we found out Michael Phelps was going to be a guest … I don’t want to say presenter, but just showing up. They invited him and they were going to have a fireside chat. I of course went to that and got to hear him talk about what he thought helped him succeed and be the best in his career. I wrote it down and I typed it up, and I said I’m so going to mention this next week for this everything counts. He said he contributes his success to the small things. That it was tiny little things, whether it was in his training or in his diet, that added up, that gave him that edge. That it wasn’t the overall big plan, it wasn’t whether he got in the pool for a certain amount of time, it was the really … He paid attention to the small things that helped him win by one one-hundredth of a second, or whatever.

I want you to think, all right, give yourself a break. That if you don’t have 10 minutes, if you don’t have 30 minutes, try to do something for yourself. I think finding those opportunities to move and shifting the negative, why you’re doing physical activity, into the positive. Giving yourself permission to not participate in an activity that doesn’t feel good to you, even though you know it might be good for you. If running is not your idea of fun, that’s okay. Give yourself permission to walk. Take it easy on yourself.

One way you can also think about, all right, I really want to try to be physically active today. I’m going to shoot for 10 minutes. Why do you want to do that? What are the feelings that come about with physical activity that would, you believe, would be a positive for you? Would it be that you think you’ll be able to sleep better that night? Not thinking about the stuff that will come later on down the line, the changes in blood chemistry, or the changes in the way you look, or clothes fitting better, but what are some of the immediate effects that you can get from physical activity?

A lot of times I know I struggle with this, but give yourself permission to prioritize you. Self-care is so important. Think about what kind of role model do I want to be either for my children, my nieces, my nephews, my parents … anybody, even my coworkers. If they see you valuing you, then that will get them thinking, “This person goes out on their lunch break for a walk every day, I wonder how do they find the time? They are just as busy as I am,” or, “Why are they able to prioritize their physical activity and I’m not?” Think about, perhaps, maybe why you’re not.

I know for me, knowing what the barriers are to me being physically active that day or that season, it’s very important. I know for me, once it gets below 60 degrees, I’m from New Orleans, I will not exercise outside anymore. I know for me, I’ve talked to a lot of friends, coworkers, that have said, “Oh no, once you get out there, you’ll be fine.” I have tried wearing the cold weather clothes to get myself … I know this is my personal barrier. I have given myself flexibility to be like, that’s okay. For this season, I do this instead of going outside for a walk or for running. Knowing how you can be okay with the barriers and focusing on one small behavior at a time.

If you have questions, please submit them, I’d love to hear them, or how you fit physical activity into your day. There are all kinds of different cards out there. I was showing a few people these FitDeck cards, although I’m sure there’s a ton on Pinterest and the internet, YouTube videos. They have some different activities. These are FitDeck Office and they have different … They go through stretching exercises, muscle strengthening exercises. This is FitDeck Stairs. Not thinking about necessarily, “All right, well I didn’t plan for physical activity today, but this is something I could do, just going up and down the stairs.”

Different strategies that would work for you. I think the biggest thing is letting go of the I should be finishing up this email, or I should be doing this for work, I should be at my child’s practice. What are ways that you can prioritize your health and your physical activity into an “I should?” I should prioritize my health to be happy and healthy because it’s important for me as a caretaker, as an individual, and my family will see my valuing my health as a priority and wanting to be my happy and healthiest as an employee, as a mother. Knowing when you possibly should close the emails and giving yourself that time.

I think really valuing what you can do for yourself, not feeling guilty about it, thinking about your day and what is something that you value, whether it’s sleep, eating healthy, or physical activity. What is something that, if I don’t do this, it really throws off my day? Finding the time to do it within your day and really prioritizing you first, because then it will actually make the people around you better, whether it’s as family or coworkers. I hope if you have any questions, please send them in. I hope you can find some time to prioritize you and your self-care.

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