As we settle into autumn and prepare for winter, we look forward to snowfalls, books read by the fireplace, and a life lived in baggy, comfortable clothing. But with shorter, colder days comes a “snuggle up” mentality, where we eat heavier and move less—a form of human hibernation. But we are not bears! And the endless stream of food-rich holidays at years-end certainly doesn’t always help.
Don’t let 2020 bite you in the behind.
This year, we have a whole new monkey wrench thrown into our winter quest for better health and fitness: the unexpected isolation and lack of physical movement of quarantine. For most people, the relaxing of exercise routines and regular eating habits is acceptable with the commitment to get back to normal in January. However, it can be difficult for a lot of people to just jump right back into their exercise regimes, especially with the long-term impact of quarantine still unknown to us all.
This year has been a significant health challenge for a substantial part of the population. Don’t arrive in the new year taking 2020 in hindsight, wishing you would have done something differently. The time to prevent our health from slipping out of control is right now.
So, to get you started, here are nine practical, bite-sized steps to keep your health and fitness on track this winter.
You will notice that these small bites add up, and before you know it, you will have an achievable routine without being overwhelmed by an entirely new schedule. 

1. Define your "why" to reach your health and fitness goals.

An important question to ask yourself when considering a health and fitness plan is...why? Why do you want to be healthier? Is it to mitigate body pain or have more mobility? Is it to help encourage a better night's sleep? Or is it perhaps to assist with feelings of depression or anxiety, win a race, or feel more confident in your clothes? For some, it might simply be the ability to play catch with your kiddos.
 One practical thing I ask our customers to do is to fill in this blank: Healthy is…(_____). Define it on your own terms. Writing it down can be helpful in creating your vision for your health and fitness goals and bringing your "why" to life. 
There is no wrong or right reason to have as your why. The main goal is usually to promote a better overall quality of life, especially as we age. And we cannot deny the impact on self-esteem and self-confidence that usually comes with feeling good about your health.
Part of my “why” is a mindset to “die young as late as possible.” I want to keep up with my son without being exhausted. I want to hurt less, enjoy my favorite activities, and enjoy the added benefit of feeling comfortable in my skin and clothing. More importantly, I want to keep preventable diseases as far from me as possible. 
Of course, exercise is no silver bullet to prevent disease, but right now, it's about the closest thing we have to a miracle pill to keep it at bay.
So take a moment to get centered and get clear about what it would look like for you if your "why" came to life.

2. Work inspiration into your exercise routine.

Inspiration comes in many forms, most of which are easily accessible to us today. Who or what inspires you to make fitness a priority in your life? Pick a point of inspiration and work that into your daily life. Then, take that a step farther by finding pictures that represent your goal.
Maybe it's people doing what you aspire to do once your fitness goals are met. Set your screensaver to this visual. Create a slideshow on your phone and look at it daily. Follow people or hashtags on social media that inspire you to keep you moving in a positive direction. 
Giving your “why” a face can help keep you motivated and inspired and keep you on track both consciously and subconsciously. You will be amazed at the result of this simple and powerful tool. 

3. Dispel the myths that physical fitness has to be hard to be helpful.

First things first: the idea that you have to "go big or go home" is simply not true. For decades, we've been sold memberships and classes with the idea that we need 45-60 minute workouts, or it just isn't worth the effort. We've convinced ourselves that a short run or bike ride isn't even worth the time. 
In this "all or nothing" mindset, the choice to exercise can feel overwhelming. It's too easy to say "not today,"  especially if someone is super busy or struggles with limited mobility due to an injury, disability, or chronic health condition. 
Here is some data-backed fitness news that will be music to your ears:
  • null
  • null

4. Define realistic fitness goals based on what you are willing and able to do.

 From a woman who had her toes amputated to a man diagnosed with Parkinson's who were both told to go on walks, I can name numerous examples of people who were given exercise advice that they were willing to do, but not able to. Whether you struggle with arthritis, osteoporosis, MS, chronic back pain, or something else, the trick is to find exercises that are realistic to both your goals and your body. 
Unrealistic expectations are among the top reasons people lose their momentum when trying to reach their fitness goals. We have all set lofty, unattainable goals like we're in our 20s and then beat ourselves up for failure in midlife.
As we age, our health and fitness ideals change with us. My goals for health and fitness were different at 20 than they are at 45. Today, I focus on exercising five to six days a week for around 20 minutes, focusing on high-intensity interval training. I try to double-dip cardio and strength training into every workout. Sometimes, I do it all at once. Other times I sprinkle in throughout the day. 
How do you create a fitness plan that's reasonable and realistic? Write a minimum requirement fitness plan and stick to it. 
To reduce overwhelm and make your fitness goals attainable, start with the minimum you are willing and able to do. That might be something as simple as stretching in the morning when you get out of bed or doing arm circle until your heart rate increases.
By starting with your minimum requirements, you will feel accomplished when achieving them. And when you think something is attainable, you will want to do more of it.

5. Snack on exercise throughout the day with mini workouts.

For the first time in 10 years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently updated the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Previous guidelines suggested that physical activity had to occur in bouts of at least ten minutes. However, the new guidelines state that even a brief episode of physical activity, like climbing up a few flights of stairs, counts towards your total physical activity volume for the day. 
Starting a fitness routine can be incredibly overwhelming and can act as a deterrent to people just getting started. Working bite-sized exercise chunks into your day is a feasible and fun way to reach your goal. 
An example of this may be doing ten squats each time you go to the bathroom. Or using commercial breaks to lift some hand weights. A ten-minute walk, weather permitting, could be a small bite you can work into your day. If you're in a wheelchair or have limited use of your legs, arm circles can come in handy to get your heart rate up quickly. 
I’ve seen this approach work for people with underlying health conditions like MS, Parkinson’s, POTS disease, and more. They will do two-minute workouts three to five times a day and once endurance builds up, they’ll add more to it.
You will notice that these small bites add up, and before you know it, you will have an achievable routine without being overwhelmed by an entirely new schedule. 

6. Seek support to encourage accountability.

Accountability and proper support are crucial when tackling a new fitness plan. We are not made to go things alone in this life, especially with more challenging tasks.
Who in your family or immediate circle of friends can you get involved in your quest for better health as we approach a new year? Having a support team can make achieving your fitness goals even more fun! 
If your community is on social media, you can take it there too, if you are comfortable. Speak your vision into reality. Update those in your support system of your progress. Let those that love you cheer you on. 

7. Talk to your doctor about your health.

 Let's face it: underlying conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, obesity, Type II diabetes, degenerative illness, and autoimmune diseases can be a hidden ause of low motivation. This feels especially true right now with COVID-19 having the biggest impact on those with previous conditions and comorbidities.
Talk to your doctor about aspects of your health that can get in your way of feeling your best and exercising more. Ask them for tips for onboarding slowly to exercise.
Identifying and tackling underlying conditions is a challenge. You may not even be aware that you have one! It is difficult to get motivated to move your body when you are in pain or otherwise don't feel well. Explore your health with your physician or naturopath to name those barriers to integrating fitness into your life and find solutions around those hurdles. 

8. Pick exercises that you like to do vs. hate.

What’s your favorite form of exercise? What form of exercise do you hate? What’s tolerable and somewhere in the middle? Even better, is there a form of exercise that brings you joy or that you find fun? The trick is to figure out what you like doing, then do more of it. 
If you hate mayonnaise or cheese, then why put it on your sandwich? The same applies to exercise. Your approach to exercise could be transformed by this one simple act: make it a priority to pick the physical activities that you enjoy. 
Today, we are so busy and caught up with work, family, relationships that we often forget to do the things we enjoy for ourselves. I happen to hate the gym, so I cut it out of my life and find myself way more excited to go hiking or mountain biking. Don't underestimate joy as a motivation for working out!

9. Remember that exercise is medicine, but think in practical terms.

It’s not fun to think about our own mortality, and exercising to not die prematurely is a hard motivator. In fact, it feels like a hard way to live life to the fullest, almost in fear. No thanks! I am faced with a personal genetic pathway of heart disease, which is part of why I take care of myself, but it’s not on the top of my mind during every workout.
Most of us know the science of exercise and that seven of the ten most common chronic diseases are favorably influenced by regular physical activity and are critical in the fight against comorbidities. Yet nearly 80 percent of adults are not meeting the key guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity, while only about half meet the key guidelines for aerobic physical activity. 
So instead of thinking of exercise as a way to help you not die, think of it as a way to help you live a life with more joy and less fear. For example, look at the benefits of exercise that help you get a better night's sleep, lift your mood, have more energy, or keep your immune system strong. 
We all have the opportunity to better ourselves and better our health through exercise. Start small and without shame, and these tips for reclaiming your health will get you on a path towards a healthier and happier life! 
Click here to check out Excy, the total body exercise bike. 


Michele Mehl