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Change Your Attitude about Physical Activity
by Michelle May, M.D.

Although exercise is one of the most powerful tools available for improving health and managing weight, even the word "exercise" can conjure up negative thoughts and feelings. If you are not very active or not exercising regularly, perhaps you have some negative thoughts of your own. Isn't it time to start thinking in more positive ways?

"I know I should exercise but I hate it so I just can't seem to make myself do it."
Many people have negative feelings about exercise, as can be heard by the use of words like "should," "hate" and "make myself." These thoughts and feelings come from negative past experiences like being chosen last for teams, boring exercise routines, and discomfort or pain from doing too much too fast. Some people only exercise when they are trying to lose weight so they have come to think of exercise as a punishment for their overeating. However, this time you can find fun physical activities that suit your personality and lifestyle. You can start slowly and allow your body to adjust gradually so it is not uncomfortable. You can choose to focus on all the great things it does for you and how wonderful you feel instead of how much weight you should lose.

"I'm embarrassed to be seen exercising."
Ironically most other people are so focused on themselves, they are not going to notice you anyway! Those that do will likely admire you. Eventually you will feel less self-conscious but in the meantime, find activities and places that make you feel comfortable so you can focus on all of the wonderful benefits. Remember, you are doing this for yourself - to feel better and become healthier.

"Exercise is really hard for me."
Physical activity doesn't have to be hard or hurt to be beneficial. In fact, it is more important to find activities that are convenient, comfortable, and enjoyable so you'll stick with it. Finding a partner, trying new activities and new routes, rewarding yourself with a hot bath or massage, and setting small, achievable goals are great ways to make exercise more fun. Even if you have physical limitations it is always possible to find some way to increase your activity level. If you have been very inactive, start by increasing your "lifestyle" activity then work toward a regular exercise routine. You will be amazed at how much your body can adapt to whatever challenges you give it!

"I'm so out of shape-I don't even know where to begin!"
Of course it is important to check with your doctor before you begin any new exercise program. Once you have been medically cleared, you have to start somewhere-so start where you are! There is no such thing as instant fitness. If you start this week by increasing your activity level, little by little, three months from now you will be leaner, stronger, more energetic, and healthier. If you choose not to start, then don't be surprised if you are exactly the same as you are today!

What are your other negative thoughts and attitudes about exercise? Can you counter them in a positive way? Develop positive statements about activity and repeat them often to yourself. For instance, instead of saying, "exercise is boring", say, "being active gives me the opportunity to relieve stress and feel better." Repeat affirmations like "I can feel myself becoming healthier and more energetic", "It feels so good to move my muscles!" and "I can do it!" Start thinking of your self as an active, healthy person-and you will become one!

Copyright Dr. Michelle May. All Rights Reserved.

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