Summer brings with it the opportunity to make and meet new health and fitness goals. The weather is perfect for getting active outside and people who visit the beach are quite likely to take long walks in the sand. Exercise is important to both physical and mental health as both the mind and body are intimately connected. In fact, any type of exercise can lift your mood and improve your physical and mental health. Keep in mind that your health and vitality are important not only to you, but also those close to you. Try to be proactive about taking care of yourself. Being proactive for overall fitness generally means combining an active lifestyle with regular medical check-ups. If you don’t already have an active lifestyle, adding a fitness program can help you to live a long and healthy life.
As long as your overall health is good, you can decide to adopt a fitness program at any time during the year. There is no need to wait until January to make a New Year’s Resolution; you can make a lifestyle changing fitness commitment at any point in the year. Making a lifestyle change requires some consideration, however, as deciding to change is often easier than enacting a change. Seeing results will not happen overnight. You will need to develop a plan as well as the volition to follow through on your fitness decision. You cannot, in an instant, turn your body into a specimen of optimal physical conditioning. It takes some time to become the person you envision yourself being and that time will require consistency and conviction as the necessary steps require devotion to change.
Volition is the cognitive process by which an individual decides on and commits to a particular course of action. It is purposeful movement towards a goal. The colloquial term for volition is will power and it is seen when a person makes up her mind to do something then acts on that decision. Volition, however, should not be confused with motivation. Motivation is the reason for making the change; volition is the action required to make the change happen. Toning or weight loss might be the motivation for making a fitness specific lifestyle change but you also need volition to follow through on the plan. People are often motivated to change but lack the volition to enact the desired change.
There are five steps to making a lifestyle change. These steps are, in order of occurrence: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. Of those five steps, the first three are directly linked to motivation or why the person wants to make the change. The final two steps are where volition is required. Moving from preparation to action requires a conscious decision to move forward followed by the performance of the necessary action. Once action has begun, maintenance, or follow through, is required. The volitional phase culminates in the actual performance and maintenance of the behavior.
If we look at making a lifestyle change for better health, walking is an excellent starting point that can be initiated in nearly any location. Most people are physically fit enough to add walking to their daily routine and, once they become comfortable with the addition of walking, they are able to add more strenuous activity a little at a time. The key to success in a fitness program lies in adding small, easily attainable goals. For example, it’s much more manageable to add a short, three minute walk around the house or office every hour you are awake as opposed to trying to dedicate a full half hour to walking in an already busy day. In addition, if you do the math, three minutes of walking per waking hour would equal 48 minutes of walking per day. By keeping the goals manageable, you have a better chance of continued participation fed through the successes of meeting your goals.
Once you are walking every hour, you will begin to feel better and, as a natural consequence, your mood will improve and you will feel more energized. Even mild exercise has been linked to a reduction in depression and anxiety. Plus sticking to a fitness routine has the potential to improve self-esteem as well as the potential to regulate sleep cycles.
After you have met your initial fitness goal, you can challenge yourself with more difficult fitness goals building upon your past successes. As you progress, it is helpful to keep a fitness diary to track your progress and see just how far you have come in your fitness journey. A fitness diary also provides opportunities to celebrate positive changes. Fitness diaries allow you to record your fitness goals, emotions, and successes as well as providing you a centralized place to record personal notations. On a personal note, if you are looking to lose weight, I suggest recording measurements instead of weight. The old saying that muscles weighs more than fat is slightly misleading. A pound of muscle weighs the same as a pound of fat. The difference is found in the amount of space they occupy. A pound of muscle takes up much less space than a pound of fat so you will notice positive changes in your measurements much sooner than you might notice positive changes in your weight.
Regardless of your current fitness level, summer is a great time to start a new outside fitness routine or to move your existing fitness routine outdoors. June is National Great Outdoors Month. It is a fantastic time to visit the beach for a long walk in the sand. If you are not a ‘beach person’, there are many other beautiful places to walk, run, or bike. The mountains offer unsurpassed hiking and many municipal parks offer well-maintained, lighted walking trails as well as the occasional outdoor group fitness class. All it takes is the decision to make your health a priority and the volition to follow through.