Most people live very busy lives, juggling relationships, education, jobs, and so much more. As a result, most people find that there is so much to do yet so little time in the day. Consequently, the task that many people neglect in order to accommodate for this lack of time is progression towards their personal goals. In my case, my preoccupation with school, family, and hobbies has led me to consistently push my goal of exercising aside. I rarely exercise each week; and I was determined to change that habit, especially because of the plentiful health benefits associated with exercising: reduced stress, weight loss or maintenance, and lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, I set a goal to exercise at least three times a week for at least an hour per workout.
As mentioned, one reason why I wanted to exercise more was to reduce stress. School can be very stressful, and I think it is important to find a healthy way to cope with that stress. Exercise has been proven to reduce the levels of stress hormones in the body, such as adrenaline and cortisol (Puterman et al.). Moreover, exercise also encourages the production of endorphins, a hormone which stimulates elevated feelings of happiness (Paungmali et al.). I decided that exercising would be the easiest way to reduce my stress, while simultaneously improving other areas of my health.
Exercising also helps to increase confidence as a result of losing or maintaining weight. Exercise alone does not necessarily lead to weight loss or maintenance. However, studies show that individuals who exercise consistently are more likely to have healthier diets than those who do not exercise (Fanning et al.). This combination of exercise and a healthy diet can lead to weight loss or maintenance and therefore an increase in self-esteem. In addition to these cosmetic and psychological benefits, exercise can improve blood circulation, reduce the risk of blood clots, and improve heart strength and function (Buchner et al.). In other words, people who exercise on a regular basis are less at risk of developing a cardiovascular disease. These health benefits are yet another reason why I set an exercise goal.
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Unfortunately, the prevalence of obesity is on the rise in the United States (Rosenthal et al.). There are multiple factors that contribute to this epidemic: the availability of junk food, technological advancements, and sedentary jobs. However, a primary element that contributes to obesity is motivation, or rather, the lack thereof. As previously mentioned, many adults (myself included) lead busy lives and claim that they do not have the time or energy to exercise. As a result, approximately 80% of Americans do not get the recommended amounts of exercise each week, which is about 2.5 hours (Rosenthal et al.). Therefore, in order to meet this recommendation, I set my goal as 3 hours of exercise per week.
I met my goal, getting approximately 3 hours of exercise each week for about 8 weeks (refer to Table 1.). I was not expecting to succeed. However, I was very motivated and set aside time each morning to exercise, as I recognized that I am typically tired and lazy in the evenings. Moreover, I set a rather strict schedule, exercising every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I did run into some barriers that often required me to instead exercise in the afternoon or evening. These barriers include watching television, going out with friends, and completing copious amounts of homework. However, I do not regret succumbing to tempting obstacles, such as Netflix, because removing these barriers from my daily life is not realistic and may cause me to resent exercising. Nevertheless, I found that following a schedule greatly increased my chances of success, along with holding myself accountable in a journal. In the future, in order to be more successful with my behavior change, I would focus on exercising in a way that I enjoy. Some of the workouts I completed for my goal were not enjoyable, and, as a result, I often felt like giving up. Therefore, in order to stay motivated, I would concentrate on sports and walks as my source of exercise if I were to repeat this project.
This process, which included documenting my actions relating to my health goal on a daily basis, helped me to achieve success. I often make schedules for myself that include a list of tasks to complete for the day. Therefore, by adding exercising to the list, it became a priority rather than a neglected chore. From this project, I learned that if I truly apply myself and work towards my goals, even if there is only a little progress each day, I can be successful. I easily see myself using this process in the future to change other behaviors, and I would recommend it others as well.
- Buchner, D. M. (2009). Physical Activity and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Older Adults. Clinics in Geriatric Medicine, 25(4), 661–675. doi: 10.1016/j.cger.2009.08.002
- Fanning, J., Walkup, M. P., Ambrosius, W. T., Brawley, L. R., Ip, E. H., Marsh, A. P., & Rejeski, W. J. (2017). Change in health-related quality of life and social cognitive outcomes in obese, older adults in a randomized controlled weight loss trial: Does physical activity behavior matter? Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 41(3), 299–308. doi: 10.1007/s10865-017-9903-6
- Paungmali, A., Joseph, L. H., Punturee, K., Sitilertpisan, P., Pirunsan, U., & Uthaikhup, S. (2018). Immediate Effects of Core Stabilization Exercise on β-Endorphin and Cortisol Levels Among Patients With Chronic Nonspecific Low Back Pain: A Randomized Crossover Design. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 41(3), 181–188. doi: 10.1016/j.jmpt.2018.01.002
- Puterman, E., Weiss, J., Lin, J., Schilf, S., Slusher, A. L., Johansen, K. L., & Epel, E. S. (2018). Aerobic exercise lengthens telomeres and reduces stress in family caregivers: A randomized controlled trial – Curt Richter Award Paper 2018. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 98, 245–252. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.08.002
- Rosenthal, R. J., Morton, J., Brethauer, S., Mattar, S., Maria, E. D., Benz, J. K., … Sterrett, D. (2017). Obesity in America. Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases, 13(10), 1643–1650. doi: 10.1016/j.soard.2017.08.002