This is the time of year that I dust off my bicycle and resume riding. I’m no athlete, but cycling has been a favorite activity of mine since childhood. That said, riding in the freezing cold and dark of winter is not my thing. This year, spring came early to Pennsylvania; my first commute by bike took place on Feb. 23.
Around eight weeks earlier, spurred by New Year’s resolutions, millions of Americans joined the gym. The gym regulars know that they must put up with a few weeks of crowded conditions, and then things will return to normal. For most of us, using the gym is a habit that that won’t stick. Why is that, and what can be done to make more achievable our good intentions of a fitter self? Here are five reasons why gym membership doesn’t work for everyone:
- - Some people join for the wrong reason; they are hoping to exercise their way to weight loss. This is a very hard path to follow. Studies show exercise produces a very slow rate of weight loss. If weight loss is among your goals, start by changing the way that you eat.
- - When weight loss is needed, your body takes extra pounding from exercise. Many people find working out easier (and less likely to cause injury) once they’ve lost some weight.
- - Exercise needs to be frequent. We are well advised to get physical activity most days, and in fact, are told not to sit too long in front of a TV or computer; regular movement is important for heart health. For many of us, a gym does not fit with that frequency requirement.
- - Time can be a barrier. You’d probably have to drive to the gym, get changed when you get there, work out, shower, get dressed, and drive home. It could well take more time getting to and from your workout routine than you spend on the routine itself.
- - And finally, there’s the cost. Nutrisystem employees use the company gym for free, but for most folks, belonging to a gym is an incremental expense that can be difficult to cover in these times.
If the gym is your thing, that’s great; stick with it! But if not, what’s the alternative? One simple, low-cost option is to increase your activities of daily living. My Daily 3 on the Nutrisystem website suggests activities for both the gym set and those preferring the daily living approach. Activities that require brisk walking for at least 10 minutes – walking the dog, walking the last half mile to and from work, mowing the grass, etc. – totaling 30 minutes a day, can be good ways to hit the minimum activity requirement. Even if you belong to a gym, increasing your activities of daily living can be a path to better health.
Which brings me back to my bicycle….I have a 20-25 minute ride to work. My commute by car would take 15 minutes, so I’m getting 40-50 minutes of exercise at an “incremental cost” of 10-20 min of my normal day – pretty good deal! My goal is to bike to work at least 60 times this year. It’s not all the exercise I need, but it will be one big contributor to hitting my physical activity goal. It also beats complaining about the price of gas!