To many people, exercise is a dirty word that conjures up images of sweating, huffing and puffing, and aching muscles. Indeed, when you think of exercise as something that you are forcing yourself to do—a necessary evil that’s required in order to achieve a result that you desire—it’s not something that you are likely to look forward to. However, when you reframe that to look at exercise as a gift that you give yourself, it’s amazing how you can actually begin to look forward to that special time that you are taking for yourself. Exercise can be become as natural as brushing your teeth or washing your face—an activity that you just wouldn’t skip. So how can physical activity take on this type of priority in your life?

The key is to find an activity that you enjoy doing. Exercise is not a way to make yourself suffer, rather it is a key component to mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) exercise,

• Reduces the risk of dying prematurely from heart disease
• Promotes psychological well-being
• Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety
• Reduces the risk of developing diabetes
• Reduces blood pressure and the risk of developing high blood pressure
• Helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints.
• Helps maintain a healthy weight.

And the best news is that it’s free and has no harmful side-effects! Like everything else, making exercise a part of your daily routine requires that you turn it into a habit rather than something you squeeze in once in awhile. By really taking in and beginning to experience the many benefits acquired by a regular regime of physical activity, you can make movement a priority. When something is a habit, you don’t stop to think about it.

If you have an appointment at the hair salon, but you ‘re too tired to get out of bed, do you just skip it? Of course not! You keep your commitment, knowing that once you get up and get moving, your energy level will pick up. Also, you are most likely looking forward to the benefit of the service you’ll receive, and wish to avoid the embarrassment of skipping an appointment.

The same phenomenon can be true for you with exercise. Once you commit to getting up every morning and taking a brisk walk, or ending your workday with a ride on your bike, taking in the fresh scents and sounds of the outdoors, it will become an rendezvous with yourself that you wouldn’t miss. To begin, make a commitment to yourself that you are going to engage in a regular regime of activity—not as a punishment or to force yourself down to a particular weight—rather because you are determined to improve the quality of your life on every level. Decide to increase your energy level, mood, and physical health—including sleep—by exercising regularly. Your motivation is everything.

Perhaps in the past, you tried to exercise, but came from a punishing or rigid place. This time, instead, think of your new activity regime as a fun and refreshing date with yourself. Find activities that you truly enjoy—perhaps rollerblading, walking, dancing, or a sport such as racquetball, tennis, or bowling. If you enjoy companionship with others, find a walking or running buddy. Most importantly—make it a positive experience. Jump or dance to the beat of your favorite music. Often the music we loved as teenagers is just what we need to get the body moving effortlessly. Start slowly and work up to a greater intensity or a longer amount of time spent exercising. But be gentle on yourself. If you are exhausted one day, take a break. However, bear in mind that it doesn’t take long to break a positive habit once you give up the momentum. The best solution, I have found, is to have a minimum and maximum amount of time allotted for your daily activity.

For example, if walking is your “sport” of choice, you may have one particular destination for days when you are limited on time or energy, and a further ending point that you commit to at least a couple of times a week. This way you continue to stretch yourself—both literally and figuratively. When you finally incorporate activity into your daily lifestyle, you will find that your appetite naturally decreases over time, your mood stabilizes and improves, and your natural energy level increases.

If there were a magic pill that could give you all the benefits of exercise, you’d probably rush to take it. Make a decision to love yourself enough to incorporate the very positive habit of regular movement into your life. Like with any part of your daily routine—such as making your bed or taking a shower—it will soon become a natural part of your day, and you won’t want to miss it. The first step is simply to take that first step.

Author's Bio: 

Rena Greenberg, Director of Wellness Seminars, Inc, is the Author of The Right Weigh: Six Steps to Permanent Weight Loss used by over 100,000 people (Hay House Publishing 2006) and The Craving Cure: Break the Hold Carbs and Sweets Have on Your Life (McGraw-Hill, June 2007). She leads weight loss seminars at hospitals throughout the country on a regular basis. She can be reached at (800) 848-2822 or visit www.EasyWillpower.com.