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You Never Regret a Workout with Dr. Tina McInnes

Jun 19, 2023

A healthy, active lifestyle gives us the energy for today and allows us to plan for tomorrow. But while most of us understand the benefits of physical activity, the burnout culture we are surrounded by often means we struggle to implement the habits we know will serve us well. 


Today, I want to explore how reflecting on the mindset and habits that have shaped us will help us to finally align our behavior with our goals.


The Power of Exercise

Exercise is key to maintaining healthy body weight long term in conjunction with eating well. We know that people who move regularly and have an active lifestyle are far more likely to maintain a healthy body weight than people who only focus on nutritional interventions. Therefore, while implementing all your nutritional strategies, building in the habit of exercise will carry you through the plateaus that come and improve your long-term likelihood of success.

It cannot be overlooked that going from being sedentary to just doing 90 minutes a week of activity will reduce your mortality. And once you’ve mastered that habit, you can start pushing more toward the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, which recommend 150 cumulative minutes a week minimum (for adults over the age of 18 and under the age of 64). 

However, the results from the 2018 and 2019 Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) showed that just one in two Canadian adults meet this most recent recommended target.


So what are the barriers that people face when it comes to exercise?


Misplaced Priorities

When it comes to exercise and nutrition, people always seek more knowledge and instruction in the form of meal plans, diet rules, and exercise routines. However, this is never usually the issue. The real work comes in breaking down the barriers to implementation and the beliefs that you hold.

If work is regularly bleeding into time that you would've otherwise spent with family or on your own self-care, it might be time to put your own behavior under a microscope. When we say ‘no’ to our boss, we often feel it has to be because of something we deem acceptable. Exercising, mental health or spending time with family, often don’t fall within that category. 

Maybe you don't need to provide an explanation, and you can just simply provide your availability? It comes down to what sort of dialogue is happening in your brain on a day-to-day basis that permits this pattern of behavior to continue. Once you uncover these core issues, this is how you can truly transform your life.

Whenever you’re faced with a decision of getting out the door to exercise versus the competing item, call yourself out in that moment. Say out loud ‘calling the garage about my tire change is more important than my health’ or ‘getting the laundry done and cleaning the floor is far more important to me than looking after my physical body’. When you start to say these things out loud to yourself, it's really a stark reminder of how misplaced the priority is. 


Doing things a certain way over time reinforces itself so strongly in the kind of person you are. It reinforces your beliefs about yourself and your identity.

People want fast results

You have to exercise consistently enough and for long enough to be able to link back to how much your sleep, mood, appetite regulation, and ability to cope with stress have improved.

The time horizon is long, so the reinforcement is slow. Things that reinforce themselves very quickly are habit forming in a very rapid sense. We know this from eating ice cream because it tastes good. You feel good right away, so it's a very intense habit that forms quickly. On the other hand, regular exercise is not, so you don't see the benefits until you do it for long enough. 

You have to treat it like your job. You wouldn't, for example, consider not going to work because you didn't feel like it. It’s about reframing the narrative in the mind so that when you say ‘Well, I didn't have the time today’, you realize you wouldn’t say that about your job, or about parenting, or any other non-negotiable thing. The first step is understanding that it's a non-negotiable part of your day to integrate a habit of movement. 


If it cannot be fun, it must be easy. And if it can't be easy, you have to make it inescapable.


By “inescapable”, that means you need to create some sort of accountability that you can't escape from such as a friend, a coach, or a class that you are registered for.


Prioritizing Perfection over Consistency

The reality is that to make this change happen, you have to be super flexible too and abandon rigid and perfectionist thinking. Maybe you couldn’t make an exercise class one day, but what other version of self-care could you do in place of that to avoid breaking the chain?

People have a tendency to focus on perfection over consistency, and when they can’t do it 100% right, they throw in the towel. When you think you have to be perfect, that destroys your consistency. It’s also important to disconnect exercise from having to see the scale move in order to validate what you're doing. When you're expecting the scale to provide positive feedback, it's the number one thing that destroys it for people. So many of the benefits of exercise are independent of the weight. You can have zero change on the scale and still see tremendous improvements in your short and long-term indices of health. 

For a lot of people who are not regularly active, becoming more active is unsavory. But sustainable behavior change means putting on your adult pants asking yourself how you are going to put strategies in place to make this change happen. It may not be something you love to do, but implementing steps to make sure it happens will enable you to transform your life through movement and exercise. 


You don't know your own possibilities until you challenge your existing beliefs and narratives and create a new identity for yourself.


Key Takeaways:

  • To integrate a habit of movement, you have to understand that it's a non-negotiable part of your day, just like your job.
  • Schedule in time to exercise and treat it the way you would any other appointment in your calendar
  • When faced with a decision of exercising versus the competing item, call yourself out on it. Say out loud “X is more important than my physical health.”
  • If movement cannot be fun, it must be easy. And if it can't be easy, you have to make it inescapable (introduce accountability through a friend, coach etc.)
  • Disconnect exercise from having to see the scale move in order to validate what you're doing 
  • Get rid of perfectionism. It will destroy the consistency required to see the benefits of exercise.
  • The benefit of growing from sedentary to just 90 minutes of movement a week is reducing the risk of mortality.

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