Transform your relationship with exercise: discover the joy of fitness once again

We all fall out of routine or struggle to begin new habits.

Our struggles with movement are not solitary, especially with nearly half (46.9%) of employed adults aged 18-64 years spending most of their work day sitting.

When we want to build consistency with our exercise and movement, it may not be enjoyable straight away.

It may look straightforward from the outside, but there are several barriers we can’t see that we all encounter when it comes to exercise.

However, it is possible to find something and some way to enjoy moving.

A mental and physical challenge

It is challenging to break out of our comfort zone.

This can be especially challenging if we are quite sedentary in our daily lives, including sitting at our workspaces.

Exercise is intentionally moving outside of our regular activities, and going from low energy to higher energy movement is significant physically and mentally.

This is where de-prioritising or procrastinating can win-out - thinking we will start tomorrow or something is always more important.

Over time, this can begin to affect us at work too.

Exercise helps us stay mobile, manage pain and discomfort, boosts our brain health and our ability to manage our moods.

“Exercise is the closest thing we have to the anti-aging pill, and has benefits in preventing or managing every major health issue we face in society today. Every day new research comes out proving the benefits of exercise”

– Cameron Tweedie, Lifecare General Manager

It’s a catch-22 that if we are in a low mood, our motivation can be low too – yet if we don’t move, then we miss out on the chemical ‘pick-me-up’ that moving gives us.

A large element of forming new, healthier habits is the mental changes required to be able to sustain them.

It can be helpful to remember:

  • If you’re mentally low or experiencing personal challenges, it can be much harder for your brain to manage stress than it normally would.
  • Our mental wellbeing affects how well we can problem solve and proactively seek solutions – e.g. finding a new gym, a new form of exercise or a new exercise buddy.
  • Our brains can slip into a pattern of negativity easily and exercising plays a role in taking the edge off of this.
  • Your own expectations or standards could be working against you. Make one of your first goals to complete a 15-minute walk, and gradually increase your time. Small steps are still progress.
  • You may have to try a few different things before you find what works for you.

Finding a way to move

You can find a way to move that fits around your lifestyle, work and physical health.

There are times when we are busy, but we still need physical activity to stay healthy.

What can take a little time is finding what works for us, and what works for others may not work for us.

If you have an injury, haven’t exercised for a while or are experiencing any health issues, consult a professional such as your doctor or physiotherapist before you get started.

The Victorian Government Department of Health in collaboration with AUSactive have created a sheet of suggestions to help work around some of the common barriers to exercise.

Their suggestions include:

'I’m not fit'

  • Start with walking
  • Try stretching, strengthening and balancing exercises
  • Try using a fitness app or device to track your progress

'I don’t feel well'

  • Choose an activity that feels comfortable, e.g. swimming
  • Don’t push yourself too hard

'I’m scared/embarrassed' or experiencing social stigma

  • Exercise on your own, in the privacy of your own home, or at a park
  • Exercise with a friend, colleague or family member who is around the same fitness level
  • Join a beginner’s class

'I don’t have enough time'

  • Look at your diary at the start of your day or the week to plan ahead
  • Try not to feel overwhelmed by lack of time. Think small. Consider shorter timed sets of exercise a few times a day, every day, instead of longer periods
  • Get off the bus or train one stop earlier or take the stairs

'I don’t have enough energy'

  • Plan your exercise for when you usually feel most energetic
  • Check your diet to see if improvements can be made
  • Try to get more sleep

If you are concerned about your energy levels, see your doctor.

'I’m worried about injury'

  • Choose activities that suit your age, fitness level, skill level and health
  • Learn how to warm up and warm down
  • Start with low-impact activities, such as walking, that will help build your confidence

'I don’t know how to be active/where to start'

  • Pick something that really interests you
  • Ask any of your physically active friends if you can come along during their next exercise session
  • Start with activities that don’t use new skills, such as walking or climbing stairs

'I can’t afford it'

  • You can walk and run for free
  • Choose activities that don’t need facilities, equipment or instructors or that use cheap, easy-to-find equipment, such as skipping and swimming
  • There are many home fitness apps available for low or no cost

'It’s raining/too hot/too cold'

  • Consider activities that aren’t weather-dependent. Try: indoor cycling, aerobics, dancing, indoor swimming, calisthenics, stair climbing, Pilates, skipping or boxing
  • Have a variety of indoor and outdoor activities to choose from so that weather can’t interfere with your exercise plans
  • Take a brisk walk through your local air-conditioned shopping centre

'I travel a lot'

  • Pack a skipping rope, resistance band or rubber mat
  • Download an exercise podcast or app on your phone
  • Go for a run or walk in a park/around the harbour/ the city/to a restaurant

'I have small children'

  • Trade babysitting time with a friend, neighbour or family member who also has small children
  • Exercise with the kids or find a gym with childcare/creche options
  • While the kids are in bed, you could be on an exercise mat, stretching or following a fitness DVD

'I’m too old'

  • Change your mindset: try to become more active, not less
  • Spend more time gardening, walking, or playing with your grandchildren
  • Learn a new skill, such as ballroom dancing, tai chi or swimming

'Exercise is boring'

  • Exercise with a friend, join a local walking group or take up a team sport
  • Change the way you think about physical activity. Don’t think that exercise must be painful or dull in order to be ‘good’ for you
  • Mix it up. Plan to participate in a variety of physical activities

Tips for leaders

  • Bring in a speaker – it can be in person or a webinar, but having a health professional speaking about different aspects of wellbeing and exercise can improve everyone’s knowledge.
  • Try ‘active’ meetings – where you can, try going for a short walk around the block or up the street.
  • Put up posters around the office or break room showing examples of good stretches to do at your desk.
  • Offer a healthcare or fitness discount with a partner, client or local business for your employees, if possible.
  • Try a monthly fitness challenge to encourage everyone to do more push-ups, drink more water, do more steps or walk/run/ride/swim a certain distance – another great motivator is to do it to raise money for a charity.

Tips for employees

  • Get on the field with your colleagues and try a team sport
  • Try walking or cycling to work if you can
  • Find another person or people to go for a walk with on your breaks, before or after work
  • Enquire about the possibility of a standing desk for your workstation, if appropriate
  • Try a meeting without chairs, standing may also help keep your meetings shorter and more efficient