Many of you have been trying to make exercise a habit. Some of you may have already succeeded in that goal. Either way, I'm proud of you for making fitness a part of your life—even if you're not always perfect at it. A consistent exercise routine offers so many benefits to your mind and your body, many of which you are probably already beginning to experience.
Now it's time for some tough love.
We all have our own ideas about exercise: what "counts" as a workout, how much we need to do, and how it benefits us. But some of those ideas are flat our wrong (or simply misguided). If you're exercising and not seeing the results you had hoped for, it could be that you're missing out on these eight truths about exercise. They may be hard to hear, but trust that I'm sharing them with you for good reasons. Understanding these realities will only make the habit of exercise easier for you—and help you get even better results from your efforts.
1. Working out will always feel difficult.
Exercise is work. It elevates your heart rate, makes you somewhat breathless, and causes your muscles to burn. It's tiring—sometimes exhausting. Yes, exercise does get easier with time, but it will never be "easy." If it were easy, it wouldn’t be
2. Not every movement or activity counts as exercise.
Let me preface this one by saying that any body movement is good for you. Whether you're fidgeting at your desk, walking across the office to talk to a co-worker, taking a single flight of stairs instead of the elevator, or playing Wii tennis—all movement is good, especially when you're just starting out. But here's the real truth: Not all movement is "exercise." The two are very, very different. For any activity to count as true exercise, it has to meet certain parameters, such as lasting at least 10 continuous minutes (so those stairs you took or that walk from your car to the store doesn't count as a workout), it has to elevate your heart rate to an aerobic level (
3. One workout may not undo a sedentary lifestyle.
Working out really matters for your health and longevity, but
4. You're not burning as many calories as you think.
"Burn up to 800 calories an hour!" How often do you see phrases like that advertised on workout DVDs, group classes and other fitness products? The truth is, most of these numbers are seriously inflated, and the average person won't burn a fraction of that claim. This is the case for treadmills, stationary bikes and other cardio machines, too. Those "calorie burn" screens can be off by 30 percent or more—they're nothing more than estimates.
When it comes to weight loss, you
5. It won't allow you to eat whatever you want.
A walk around the block doesn't earn you a brownie. That yoga class doesn’t mean it's okay to indulge in an ice cream sundae this weekend. How often do you "reward" yourself for working out by undoing most of your efforts with one or more dietary splurges? Remember, exercise really doesn't burn as many calories as people assume it does, so a single workout—even a rigorous one—won't come close to offsetting just one big splurge. Yet I know many people who justify their food choices by saying "I worked out today." If weight loss is your goal, you have to keep these splurges in check; otherwise, you'll be fighting a losing battle and never really get ahead in the calorie equation.
6. Exercise alone won't change your body.
This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions I see. Most people believe that simply by exercising more, harder, or with some "
7. You have to do it forever.
A lot of people don't like to exercise, but they manage to stick with it in order to lose weight. Once they reach that goal, it becomes easier to slack off and then lose the habit entirely. But whether your goal is to lose weight, look better, improve your health, or just plain feel good, you're only going to reach—and maintain—that result by continuing to exercise after you reach that goal. The benefits of exercise are quickly lost, too. You actually lose your strength and endurance far faster than it took to build up (unfair, right?). You can lose muscle strength in just a couple weeks off from pumping iron, and cardiovascular endurance? It starts diminishing when you rest just two days! This is why it's important to find a routine that you enjoy and can stick with for the long haul.
8. Routine is the exercise enemy.
I love routine as much as the next person, but the gym is not the place for it. For the best results, you have to change up your workouts often. This is good because it can help prevent boredom so you'll stick with it, but
There you have it. Sometimes the facts are hard to hear, but ultimately, the truth can be liberating—and help you really become your best in the gym and in life.