Physical Activity: The Why and How

Written by Emily Gratopp, Extension Assistant

There are a plethora of benefits to being physically active. From weight management to reduced illness and stress, to higher metabolism and self-esteem, physical activity is one of the best things we can do for our bodies. Most of us are aware of these benefits, yet we find ourselves making choices to be less active. Why is it we still find ourselves doing things like circling the parking lot for the closest parking spot, sitting for several hours each day, or choosing to play a board game with the kids instead of going to the park? Why do we sit and watch TV instead of using that time to be active?

Physical activity can be easier if it becomes part of our daily, moment-by-moment lives. It’s the small choices we make each day that lead to a physically active lifestyle and the abundance of benefits that accompany it.

How do we make physical activity a central part of our daily lives so we can reap the numerous benefits?

Find your motivation.

Motivation statements like “I want to lose weight” or “I want to be healthier” do not really instigate a change in our lives. It’s time to dig deep. What is the real reason you want to be more active? What is most important to you? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What do you live for?

By answering these questions you should get an idea of what will really motivate you to be physically active. For some, their biggest motivator to being active is being able to keep up with their kids and be a good parent. For others, it is being able to get up and down off of the floor or out of chairs to maintain freedom of life.

Whatever it is for you, find your true reason for taking care of your body and dwell on it often to maintain your motivation.

Make SMART goals for being active.

Goals for physical activity can be set like any other life goal. There are certain characteristics of a goal that need to be present to increase the likelihood of attaining that goal. All goals should include these elements:

Specific: what exactly will you achieve? Explain in detail what you plan to do. Write specific activities like ‘walking’ or ‘push-ups’ instead of generic terms like ‘be more active’.

Measurable: how will you know when you’ve reached your goal? Typically, the goal will include a number for measurement, like ’30 minutes’ or ‘4 days’.

Attainable: is this a goal I can actually do? You do not have to ‘go big or go home’ with activity goals. Small, everyday changes will lead to new habits and a life full of health.

Realistic: is this a goal I can achieve in the time I’ve allotted?

Time-sensitive: by when will you reach your goal? Be specific. There are both short-term and long-term goals. I would recommend starting with a short-term goal, like a daily goal, and then moving to a longer period of time once you’ve reached success with the short-term goal.

Let’s use an example to explain how to make a goal into a SMART goal.

Typical goal: To be more active.

SMART goal: To have walked for a total of thirty minutes (an accumulation of 5-10 minute segments) by the end of today.

Focus on TODAY.

Know that today matters. You do not have to wait for the New Year, or next week, or Monday. Today matters. Give yourself permission to starting taking care of your body TODAY. Give yourself permission to prioritize self-care. Be generous with yourself. The more activity you build into your day, the more benefits you will reap, and the better mom, dad, husband, wife, sister, brother, co-worker, or employee you will be.

You can make a small change today. You can take 10 extra steps or take the stairs one extra time TODAY. I believe in you.

What will you do TODAY?

Grab a buddy.

A lot of physical activities involve teams, like most sports for example. What is stopping you from asking a friend, co-worker, or acquaintance to be active with you? You can even make physical activity a family affair. So grab a buddy, tell them your goal. Hold each other to your goals or if the goals are similar – do them together.

friends walking



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