Finding your mojo for exercise

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An article in The Guardian newspaper outlined the positive impact that having a sense of purpose had upon your motivation levels. The newspaper quoted the late neurosurgeon David Servan-Schreiber who described how a group of hotel cleaners were told that their work would burn enough calories to help them lose weight, while another group were simply told to get on with their work. The first group ended the week having worked harder than previously and lost weight in the process, the second group’s behaviour and weight hadn’t changed.

Goal-setting is key to motivation

The idea sparked two thoughts: the first was how having a sense of purpose can motivate you to work harder has implications for how you train in the gym. If you are simply going to the gym to exercise, with no clear end goal, then how meaningful does that exercise become? Setting goals – whether they are for achieving a certain amount of weight loss or to prepare for a challenge or to be able to perform a new skill – will help raise levels of motivation. If goal setting is something you struggle with, then talk to the fitness instructors in the gym and they will advise you on the way forwards.

Getting active at home

The second point that the article raised was the amount of calories burnt and exercise completed when you are doing non-exercise physical activity (NEPA). It is a point that previous generations were well aware of. Until the widespread availability of labour-saving devices from the 1950s onwards, most everyday tasks involved an element of physicality. Washing clothes and drying them was a painstaking business that involved wringing out piles of heavy, dripping wet cloth; cleaning the floors meant taking a scrubbing brush and kneeling on the floor to scrub the floors clean. If you have ever made bread by hand you will know the amount of work that goes into kneading the dough.

Gardening, chopping wood, walking to the shop, cycling to work, ironing stacks of clothes and sheets – it is little wonder that our grand parents and great grand parents had no need of gym memberships to stay lean and fit.

New ways to keep fit

As technology leads to our lives becoming increasingly sedentary, we need to find ways to keep moving. Going to the gym; entering physical challenges such as Park Runs, Charity cycle rides and adventure races; learning how to play new sports; joining in with workplace challenges – these are all ways that you can keep your motivation levels high. But don’t forget to look closer to home.

IMG_9419Does that garden hedge need cutting? Don’t put it off or call in a gardener. Dig out the shears and have a go. An hour’s worth of hedge cutting, or a 30 minute burst of digging the soil will burn off hundred’s of calories and you haven’t needed to leave your home.

Likewise with the housework. Running up and down the stairs, polish the kitchen table, dust all the skirting boards, de-clutter your wardrobe. A couple of hours of house work will leave you with a lovely tidy house and 3-400 less calories.