As featured in Spectrum Life Magazine Spring 2020 Issue
It is no secret that exercise helps you live a longer and healthier life. Studies have shown that it can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses, reduce stress and anxiety, as well as provide a plethora of other positive physical, mental, and emotional benefits. But did you know that only 1 in 5 American adults currently meet the recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity per week? If the positive benefits of exercise are well known, then why is it that 80% of American adults do not take advantage of them?
Let’s take a look at some possible barriers that may get in the way and discuss solutions.
Whether or not you or your children identify as neurotypical or neurodiverse, once children enter your life, it is simply no longer about you. Gone are the days of knowing which bars have the best happy hours throughout the week or meeting your friends after work to plan your next epic vacation. Now your days are filled with shuffling schedules to make sure that each child gets to school, activities, and appointments on time, all the while making sure to provide meals, attention, love, and support.
For parents of children on the autism spectrum or with other special health care needs, there may be additional scheduling requirements happening in your daily life making you feel busier than ever before.
The part that can easily get forgotten is the importance of self-care. You need to take care of yourself and make sure that you’re getting the amount of “me” time to refuel so that you can continue to provide.
Lack of Time
Whether you are a parent or not, you likely identify as BUSY. Between going to and from school, work, appointments, activities and spending time online, when is there time for you to get your exercise in?
You have to MAKE time. If it is a priority, you will make time. The issue is that we often don’t see exercise as a priority because of everything else that we’re juggling in life, yet we know that exercise actually can help us deal better with the stress we are having.
So how do we make time? There are several ways to do this:
1 – Wake up earlier: This may not be the most popular option, but it is a way to make more time in your day and after you do it regularly for a few weeks, it will become routine. Get up before the kids get out of bed and go to the gym or go for a run. If you can’t leave your home, exercise there and create your own home gym environment.
2 – Take advantage of the appointment times: At Specialty Athletic Training, we provide athletic training and support for youth and adults with special health needs. Caregivers wait separately so during this time, we encourage them to go do their own workout. Not near a gym? Go for a walk and get some fresh air during those times. It will give you time for self-reflection and help clear your head from the chaos of life.
3 – Utilize lunchtime or breaks: Use your break time or lunchtime at work or school to get a quick 30-minute bout of exercise in. It is a great way to break up your day and reenergize.
4 – Put it on your schedule and prioritize you: It is important to remember that we all have 24 hours in a day. As cliché as that sounds, it is 100% true. If you make exercise a priority for yourself, you will find ways to make it happen.
Exercising by yourself can be daunting, especially if you’ve never really done it before or are trying to jump back in and create a new routine. It is important to find an exercise buddy to help encourage you, as well as hold you accountable. Here are some ways to go about finding that exercise buddy or fitness community in-person or online.
1 – Join a gym: Finding the right gym can make all the difference. The people and camaraderie can be one of the best support systems for your fitness journey and life in general. Test several out and find one that you can relate to and where you enjoy the vibe.
2 – Find a trainer: Maybe you just joined a gym, but now you don’t know what to do. Hiring a personal trainer can be the support system that you need, as well as provide the guidance that you’re searching for. With the explosion of the digital media era, trainers now offer online options as well. Again, find one that you gel with and that you enjoy being around.
3 – Go Digital: Gyms are too intimidating for many. The great thing is that the internet has several online communities that you can join that are super supportive and provide a similar community as joining a gym. One example is Peloton Digital. For under $15/month you get access to various types of classes (many that don’t require any equipment) that are taught by a variety of trainers. You can encourage others during the classes and also follow their fitness journey as well.
Energy and Motivation
The hardest part of exercising is getting started. The average American diet makes us very lethargic and feel like we don’t have very much energy. By investing in yourself and exercising, other healthy habits tend to follow. Increased water intake and healthier eating habits are just examples. These all play important roles in improving your energy levels, which in return will keep you motivated to keep putting in the work.
These are just some of the common barriers that adults face that make it hard to reach that recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.
As always, I hope that you have found this information helpful. Please note that although this particular article slants more toward parents, the strategies within, particularly regarding prioritizing time for exercise and finding community can be adapted for autistic adults and youth.
Making exercise a priority is not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but I cannot stress the importance of it enough.
Are you looking at making a change and becoming the part of 20% American adults that meet the recommended exercise guidelines but need help? Please send me an email at Ryan@SpecialtyAthleticTraining.com or give me a call at (503) 863-0512 and I’d be more than willing to help guide you in the right direction.
About the Author
Ryan Lockard, CSCS, CSPS is the founder and head trainer of Specialty Athletic Training and is accredited by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a Certified Special Populations Specialist. He is a member of the board of directors for the Autism Society of America and the Central Oregon Disability Support Network.