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Exercise: Why Summer Is the Perfect Time to Set a Fitness Routine

"Exercise should be thought of as a life-long experience, not a temporary fix"

Making time to exercise is not easy when you’re balancing work and a social life. Once you consider sweating, feeling sore, and running out of breath, working out may look less appealing. 

"There are all sorts of barriers to exercise, including expense, accessibility, and many jobs," Dr. Lee Stoner, an assistant professor of exercise science at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, told NBC. "Today, the average American spends 55% of their waking time sedentary. Most jobs today require us to be sedentary in order to perform [our] duties."

Motivation is another challenge that prevents people from exercising.

"Intrinsic motivation has been positively associated with beginning and continuing an exercise plan," J.D. DeFreese, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, told NBC. "Accordingly, finding an exercise modality or activity that one likes is generally the biggest predictor of staying motivated to do it."

According to a survey conducted on May 30 by United Healthcare, you may also be more likely to exercise if your fitness routine takes place in a social environment, or financial incentives are involved.

Fifty seven percent of participants agreed that they would consistently participate in fitness if provided a social component, and 67% of respondents said that an incentive of as little as two dollars per day would motivate them to exercise for at least one hour.

Exercise also has many health benefits, which include reducing chances of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. A study done at the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise boosts the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in learning and verbal memory. These results did not apply to resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises.

"Physical activity affects every cell in the body and the benefits are innumerable, from efficient fuel utilization to increased circulation to healthy muscle growth and repair," Jennifer Sacheck, a professor of prevention and wellness, and chair of the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Milken Institute of Public Health at the George Washington University, told NBC. "Regular exercise helps every part of the body work properly, including the respiratory, cardiovascular, muscular, neuromuscular systems—and it can even keep the brain fit."

2019 Exercise Trends:

In 2019, several trends have dominated the fitness world. Participating in these exercise options can increase your incentive to prioritize physical activity. The best part? Anyone regardless of age, gender, or activity level can take part.

  • Wearable technology:

Devices like Apple Watches and Fitbit allow you to track your physical activity, such as steps taken, calories burned and heart rate reached. Plus, these apps do more than just provide statistics on your daily activity level; they also promote healthy competition. Fitbit offers "challenges" that allow you and your step count to go head-to-head with friends and the greater community.

  • Group training:

A study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health found that 95% of participants who started a weight loss program as a group completed it, while the completion rate for individuals was 76%. Another study explored the Kohler Effect on fitness training, found that individuals will maintain an exercise longer if competing against others who are participating in the same experience. 

Now, on-demand classes make it possible to get the experience of a group setting from your home. Peloton, a fitness company that is changing the possibilities of group workouts, offers thousands of virtual classes for cycling, running, walking, bootcamp, yoga, strength and stretching that can be accessed through the purchase of their bike or treadmill.

"People want to work out, but there are a lot of obstacles that stand in the way," a Peloton spokesperson told NBC. "We aimed to eliminate them by bringing studio-style, group fitness classes home and offering access to the motivation, power and intensity of these classes at a more convenient location and on your own time."

  • High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT):

This type of exercise allows you to "get a lot of bang for your buck," according to Angie Fifer, certified mental performance consultant and Association for Applied Sport Psychology executive board member. The training entails alternating between short periods of anaerobic exercise and less intense recovery periods—for example, three minutes on, 30 seconds rest. HIIT can use any type of cardio workout, such as running, versa climbing, jumping rope, or rowing.

Barry’s Bootcamp, a strength and cardio interval fitness experience, offers a HIIT workout class that alternates muscle focus.

"[Offering classes that target different areas of the body helps] to ensure balance and proper time to recover," Chris Hudson, Barry’s Bootcamp instructor and chief curriculum lead, told NBC. "Class will elevate your heart rate, increase lean body mass and raise metabolic rate up to 15%…we help people work hard and feel good, and provide a safe, welcoming, and respectful space to come [to] over and over again."

  • Yoga

While yoga was popular before 2019, recent research has introduced more psychological and physical benefits tied to this practice. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, studies have shown that yoga has improved several aspects of wellness, which include stress management, mental and emotional help, sleep, balance, and promoting healthy eating and activity habits.

CorePower Yoga, the largest privately owned yoga chain in the country, offers a variety of classes to balance the body and mind. Their Yoga Sculpt Class also features strength training with weights and cardio to boost metabolism and build lean muscle.

"Our classes range in challenge, flow and style to fit every experience level and are designed to fire up your strength, increase your flexibility and build your core," Chief Yoga Officer Heather Peterson told NBC. "Our combination of a killer workout, mindfulness, a true sense of community in our studios, and our passionate teachers are what keep students coming back to their mats."

The benefits of the class go beyond the physical.

"All of our class formats help people reduce stress and find focus on and off their mat," Peterson said. "Students share they have less stress and are often able to take on larger life projects or new directions. Mentally, the practice creates growth through stronger relationships and balance in their work and life."

How You Can Stay in Shape this Summer (and Year-Round):

When it comes to exercising, the options are widespread. If you are not ready to make a financial commitment to a gym or class, there are plenty of free or lower cost activities to try. What’s more, the introduction of fitness apps has even made it possible to make money for exercising. Here are some ideas to boost your heart rate and make you sweat:

  • Download a fitness app and follow their workouts

Whether you are interested in taking virtual yoga classes, or finding a guided workout catered towards your fitness level, there are options for you.

Apps like Nike+ Training Club offer more than 100 free guided workout videos available for all fitness levels. There is also Strava, an exercise tracker, fitness community, and activity log for runners and cyclists, where you can compare your times on certain routes to others. You can complement your workout with food and sleep tracking apps to ensure that you maintain your health routine outside of exercise.

If these choices are not motivating, earning money for exercising may add a layer of incentive. Apps like Lympo allow you to make money by going on walks, while Charity Miles donates money to a charity of your choice for each mile you move.

  • Go for a run or walk outside

However, you don’t need an app, a class, or fancy equipment to get in shape. According to Fifer, the best thing to do is "start TODAY."

"It’s so easy to keep putting exercise off until tomorrow or some date in the future," Fifer said to NBC. "Get up and go for a 10-minute walk. Motivation can also be affected by a fear of what others think about us, or that we might be judged or ridiculed. When it comes to exercising, though, most everyone is worried about their own exercise and don’t have any more energy to worry about what someone else is doing. And besides—it’s your journey, not theirs, so don’t let what someone else might think get in your way."

  • Establish a routine that you can maintain

Also important is building an exercise schedule that is sustainable. Going for an hour run one day and then taking the rest of the week off will not be beneficial. Instead, begin by exercising 30 minutes each day, and increase your activity level from there. 

"Exercise should be thought of as a life-long experience, not a temporary fix," Dr. Stoner said.

Leading a healthy life does not end with exercise. Also important is getting enough sleep and eating well.

  • Think of exercise as an investment, not a chore 

It does pay to invest in exercise. A study conducted by Harvard University found that medical costs fall by approximately $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs.

According to Sacheck, prioritizing exercise and engaging in it long enough will help unmotivated individuals to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives.

"Find something that you love, find someone that you would love to do it with," Sacheck said. "Make it your natural 'default'--just like brushing or teeth or making dinner--it is a regular part of your day. Know that all forms of movement contribute to overall health and well-being."

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