women's health

Self Care 101: Love yourself enough to exercise

According to a recent survey, exercise is the number one priority for women of all ages wanting to improve their health. Despite this, less than half of all Australian women are sufficiently active. So, what’s stopping women from slotting regular exercise into their lifestyle? And more importantly, how can we overcome these barriers and encourage women to move more?

Why you should make time for exercise

Too often, women forget to prioritise themselves and make time for their health. Maybe you feel guilty for taking time out? Maybe you just feel too tired? Whatever the reason, it’s got to stop.
Exercise not only reduces your risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes and some cancers, but it also gives you more energy. This means more energy to dedicate to your kids, your job, your friends and your partner.

When women start put themselves first and engage in regular exercise, many of the concerns they have around exercise and movement start to melt away. Additionally there is a mounting body of evidence supporting the role of exercise in managing depression and anxiety and improving mental health outcomes.

What’s holding us back?

The most common reasons given for forgoing exercise are:

  • Lack of time
  • Feeling tired
  • Lack of motivation
  • Not having friends to exercise with
  • Feeling self-conscious about appearance

Let’s look at some strategies to overcome these barriers and help women to put themselves first when it comes to staying active:

If you don’t have enough time…

It may sound cliché but the five “P” rule contains the truth. That is, “prior planning prevents poor performance”. Think about how you might be able to fit some exercise into your day and make it an “appointment” in your diary.

Remember that exercise doesn’t have to be done in one big chunk to be effective. Nor does it have to be structured. Doing a 10 minute body weight circuit in your kitchen, kicking a soccer ball around in the yard with your son, or taking a walk to the local park… It all counts!

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If you’re too tired…

Becoming fatigued is part of life, especially if you’re a parent juggling a job, children and a partner. However, it’s well established that regular exercise can help improve resistance to fatigue.
A strategy that often proves helpful is establishing a morning exercise routine before your day begins! Many fitness experts suggest that early morning exercisers are more consistent in their exercise routine than their evening counterparts. You get a positive and energizing start to the day and if life gets in the way, you can rest easy knowing you’ve taken good care of yourself.

If you lack motivation…

Robert McKain famously wrote that “action precedes motivation”. Put simply, it’s not worth waiting for the motivation to exercise. Like Nike suggests, overcoming this barrier is really a case of “just do it!”. Practical tips that you can use include setting out your exercise clothing the evening before or making an “exercise date” with a friend to keep you committed.

If you don’t have anyone to exercise with…

Exercising with a friend can help you stick to an exercise plan. It makes it more enjoyable, helps keep you motivated and can be an excellent way of meeting new people. Some ways to get out and find some new workout buddies include:

  • Finding local community activities in your area that you enjoy
  • Participating in group fitness classes at the gym
  • Taking up the challenge of participating in a charity event or fun run

If you feel self-conscious…

It’s natural to feel self conscious, especially when trying out a new activity. Be prepared and choose exercise clothing that feels comfortable and good to move in. Although we recommend choosing exercise you enjoy, if body image and feeling self-conscious is getting you down, consider giving strength training a go. Research has shown that strength training can improve body image in women. Many women enjoy practicing yoga and Pilates too. Explore various forms of movement and find out what gives you joy.

Tips for getting started

It’s important that we love and value ourselves – and a regular exercise program is one of the best gifts of self love that we can give. Taking time away from ourselves for our busy lives and participating in physical activity is essential to a happy, healthy and well balanced life.

If you need some help getting started, chat to a local exercise professional. To find an expert near you, click here.

Liz Nelson Accredited Exercise Scientist

Liz Nelson is an Accredited Exercise Scientist and freelance writer. Liz provides health related content to a wide range of clientele from fitness professionals to mental health and addiction specialists.