THESE 7 PROBLEMS ARE STOPPING YOU FROM BEING IN SHAPE THIS SUMMER
Summertime is the greatest of all seasons.
Vacations, barbecues, pool parties, and glorious sunsets are some of the things we've all been longing for. This long-awaited season is finally blooming, and we feel strangely energized by the thought of enjoying ourselves in the sun.
You should relish this time of the year, but there is one problem that affects most people when it comes to enjoying summertime: feeling out of shape.
According to a report of the NHS in May 2019, 64% of the population in the UK is overweight or obese.
This means that more than half of Brits are going to be marked as "out of shape" this summer. When it comes to health and fitness, we all know the basics: eating healthy fresh food, exercising regularly, and resting. There's no magic to it, and yet so many people find it hard to follow these three simple principles. Why is that?
To such a large scale issue, there isn't a single answer, but there are seven common problems that are stopping most people from being fit and healthy.
1-You don't have time to exercise
Nowadays, life is hectic. Work, family, travel, social life, and housework are extremely time-consuming activities. For most people trying to fit exercise into their schedule is a real challenge. Even so, there is a substantial amount of "busy people" that seem to be able to make everything "fit" in their agenda. How do they do that?
The reality is that there are many ways of maintaining a healthy lifestyle while still taking care of all the other aspects of your life.
First of all, people that exercise regularly have more energy to do all their other activities.
In fact, according to an analysis of the University of Georgia, exercise plays a significant role in increasing energy levels and reducing fatigue.
There are also many overlooked ways of making exercise time-effective, such as:
Walking or using a bicycle to commute to work
Spending the weekends doing outdoor activities
Walking up one hour earlier and having a morning PT session (and possibly going to bed one hour earlier not to miss out on sleep)
Going for a jog during lunch break
All these activities may seem complicated to fit in your schedule at first, but with time it's possible to put them on autopilot and make them a part of your routine. It doesn't really matter which one you choose, but finding time to exercise should always be your number one priority if your goal is to be healthy and getting in shape.
2- You think you don't like exercising
This is a widespread misconception. Most people think about exercise as running or lifting weights only. This picture may look grim to most. If you are inactive and overweight, running can be very tough, and the gym environment can feel intimidating. These thoughts may be enough to make you believe that exercise is not for you.
According to a statistic from GOV.uk 24% of the British population, aged 16-54 is marked as inactive.
This number may seem low, but if you look carefully of their definition of an "inactive individual" they consider "active" every person that undertakes more than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.
Unfortunately, in the real world 30 minutes of moderate activity a week won't do much for your health, let alone getting you in shape.
According to the American Heart Association, the minimum amount of exercise per week should be 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity. They also note that for optimal health, you need 300 minutes of moderate aerobics (or 150 minutes of intense aerobics) combined with some moderate to intense strength training each week.
These numbers may seem frightening if you don't like doing physical activities, or you're not used to it. The reality though is that moderate physical activity may include a lot of tasks that are not marked as "exercise" such as:
Walking to the grocery store and carrying the bags back home instead of shopping online
Again, walking or cycling while commuting to work
Play sports with your kids
The list goes on and on, but most likely there are a couple of activities that you may like doing (or at least don't mind doing). Don't get discouraged and try to be creative. At the end of the day, what really matters is moving your body, how you do that is totally up to you.
3- You don't have "the best strategies."
Trying to get in shape can feel overwhelming. There is an overabundance of information on the net, and it's easy to get confused and feel in need of a clear path to follow.
The reality is that for most people that are overweight or obese (and have a sedentary lifestyle) having "the best strategies" won't do much.
A recent article from the Harvard School of Health points out that the two most crucial determinants of success when it comes to dieting are:
Quality of food (possibly cooked at home)
Quantity of food consumed
They observed that obsessing over macronutrients ratios or calories in vs. calories out was not as significant when it came to weight loss and general health. In simple words: buying fresh food, cooking it at home and simply watching your food portions are what most people need in order to lose weight and be healthier.
The same goes for exercise. As I mentioned before, any sort of moderate activity is a good place to start. Not knowing how to run, swim or lift weights shouldn't stop you from moving your body (even though in the case of lifting weight is always advisable to hire a personal trainer at first to avoid possible injuries).
4-Your job makes it impossible to stay fit and healthy
Surely most workplaces don't supply their employees with the most fit-friendly environment. Most offices don't have adjustable standing desks and tend to be stocked up with sugary foods like biscuits and candies. On top of that, the hectic and stressful environment most jobs have makes exerting willpower extremely hard for the typical employee.
On the other side of the coin, we see companies becoming more and more aware of corporate wellness. Nowadays, most employers know the importance of having healthy employees. A popular article from The Telegraph even shows that nearly half of the employers are "unlikely" to hire overweight workers.
Many companies even give their employees monthly cash bonuses to invest on their health (for example, buying a gym membership or hiring a personal trainer).
Also, it's not so uncommon to see corporate health insurance companies (Vitality to mention one) featuring bonuses and rewards for the employees that complete fitness challenges (for example walking 8000 steps five days in a row may earn you a cinema ticket), usually using a watch like FitBit.
Whether the company you work for is investing in corporate wellness or not, it's always up to you to make health and fitness a part of your lifestyle. Sure, sometimes there's not much you can do to improve your working environment, and you need to do your best to stay active and eat healthily with the resources your office offers.
Something you could always do is to ask Human Resources to take more health-related initiatives. This might take some time, but you might be surprised by the outcome.
5-Your high-travel schedule makes it hard to create and maintain healthy habits
This is true for all the jobs that require you to travel on a daily or weekly basis, but also for people that go on holiday frequently or they regularly visit their families out of town.
It is common sense to think that a healthy lifestyle is the sum of many healthy habits. Maintaining these habits while traveling can be extremely difficult for most.
The precious routine that you carefully built back home gets thrown out of the window, quickly replaced by long flights, plane food, taxis, and high-calorie takeaways. Exercise doesn't fit in the picture anymore because of jet lag and the absence of convenient gym facilities. Put it that way, travelling seems like a recipe for disaster.
Among the five problems showcased in this article, traveling is probably the hardest to address because of its unpredictability. There are a few strategies that can help you keep healthy while on a business trip, but they do require a bit of preparation. Some of the most effective are:
Preparing the food to carry with you before each flight (this will save you from snacking on comfort food or having an unhealthy airplane meal)
Booking hotels that have a gym facility
Booking yourself to some fitness classes in the city you're going to
Bringing a pair of running shoes with you, and having a morning or evening jog
Cutting some time to go for a long walk
If your trip is very short, you won't even need to do some extra physical activities, but watching what you're going to eat is always advisable.
6-Your family or partner are not supporting your fitness goals
if you have a family or even just a partner, having dinner together is a healthy ritual, it's the time to relax and share stories. If your partner cooks for you, it can be rude to say that you are on a diet and refuse to eat. Most people use that as an excuse to feast on delicious food, have a few glasses of wine and maybe a dessert too. Luckily this could be avoided.
If you let your partner know that eating slightly differently from what you two are used to is important to you, he/she will definitely find a compromise; whereas blaming her/him would have the opposite effect. There are different solutions to this particular problem, and some of them don't even involve asking your partner to change her/his habits for you.
Write a list of your partner’s favorite foods and suggest some healthy options for them to cook
Exercise willpower: if your partner likes to drink and snack on comfort food, it doesn't mean that you need to do the same.
Eat less during the day: a trendy way of doing that is the intermittent fasting diet (where you basically fast for 16h and eat the most of your calories between 12 pm and 6 pm).
Cook separately: this requires an agreement between the two of you
7-Your social life gets in the way
Whether it's at a work dinner or a friend's birthday party, it's easy to find yourself in pubs or bars that have very few healthy food choices. Socializing, in general, is usually accompanied by drinking and snacking. This is true, no matter where you are in the world. Having a very active social life often results In gaining weight and feeling unhealthy.
Apart from exercising willpower, there are a few strategies that you could use to mitigate these problems without becoming completely antisocial:
Make friends that are into fitness and schedule some sports-related activities with them (you can do this with your work colleagues too).
Arrive late at the party, have a single drink and leave early (this could be a bit antisocial, but usually people appreciate the fact that you came to say hi).
Have a healthy meal before going out ( this will allow you to feel less hungry and avoid high-calorie foods later on)
There is no quick solution to these five problems, but if you take small actions towards a healthier and fitter body you will soon enough reap the rewards…and maybe next year, you'll have that most longed "summer-shape."