Many experts agree that it’s actually towards the end of the year – rather than as a new year’s resolution – that we should set good habits in motion for improved health and wellbeing come January. But it isn’t quite as easy as that. With darker, colder weather and diaries full of festive events, motivation to exercise (or practice any kind of self-care) often evades us.
This sentiment doesn’t just apply to winter, either: post-pandemic, research by Nuffield Health showed that almost half of the female population do no regular exercise, and a further one in three women in the UK said their physical health had deteriorated over the past 12 months. Given we know the many benefits of exercise – not just for physical health, but mental wellbeing, too – how do we get our heads back in the game?
Start visualising where you want to be
As the saying goes, you can’t be what you can’t see, so taking the time to visualise your goals is key to achieving them. “Whether it’s in five, 10 or 20 years, you need to have a picture or goal in your head, and then make the lifestyle changes to achieve that result,” says Veness. “I want to get to 70 or 80 and still be able to do what I’m doing now, whether that’s training, being able to go for runs or playing football with my kids. That’s a priority – and that’s what I visualise.” Write down your goals, keep them front of mind, and work out what you need to do to get there, which will help inform your everyday behaviours and choices.
Action precipitates motivation
Sometimes you’ve got to just show up for a workout, and motivation will come in time as you begin to see positive results. “Most days I don’t feel like training – I can always find other stuff to do – but I start my warm up, keep on going and end up feeling amazing,” says Veness. “Set the bar purposefully low and start with a short workout twice a week. Ensure you hit those goals and I guarantee you’ll feel better, and want to work out more often.” That’s how to build good habits over time.
Often, one of the most difficult parts of working out is actually the time that precedes it – getting out of bed, getting ready and leaving the house. To remove this hurdle, make sure you create an environment which positively affects your behaviour.
Make it easy to exercise
Often, one of the most difficult parts of working out is actually the time that precedes it – getting out of bed, getting ready and leaving the house. To remove this hurdle, make sure you create an environment which positively affects your behaviour. “Prepare yourself by getting your gym kit out the night before so that all you have to do is put it on when you wake up in the morning,” says Veness, as one example. He also recommends preparing yourself mentally: how long are you going to work out for? What type of exercise are you going to do? What type of music or podcast will you listen to? Decide, and do it.
Find your people
A number of studies have shown that we’re more likely to exercise if there is a social element to it, which is why finding a workout buddy or a gym which prioritises its community can lead to better results. “I think community is the most important and underrated part,” says Veness. “It’s a point of connection in our day and it adds value to people’s lives – one of the big things I’ve noticed is that we used to just go down to the pub or around to someone’s house for a cup of tea, but now you can go to the gym together. And that’s a good thing.”
Try and be consistent – even if it’s just a little each day
Making your health a priority is key to feeling good day-in, day-out – so try and exercise each day, even if it’s just a quick 15 minutes. Increasingly, research shows that “exercise snacking” (bursts of exercise for more than a minute) is still beneficial for both physical and mental health. “It’s a daily pursuit – if you want to feel good every day, have a clear head and optimal mental space, get your workout in,” says Veness.
This article was originally published on British Vogue.