A relative term, ‘fitness’ means something different to all of us. It broadly captures everything from physical activity, nutritional intake, sleep, as well as our social, mental, medical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. On top of this, how we prioritise these areas of fitness in our daily lives is also relative, depending on our experience, education, culture and circumstances.
With all that in mind, it’s no wonder some don’t think about fitness as part of their lives at all. Some see fitness as a chore to keep on top of, others deem it a luxury for the minority, while the rest of us have adopted fitness as a lifestyle, engraining exercise, healthy eating and mindfulness practices into our daily routines. None of these varying perspectives are necessarily right or wrong, more so personal to us all as individuals as we try to make sense of our place, space and time upon this orbiting rock we call Earth.
For those of us wanting to embed positive fitness practices into our lifestyle as the habitual norm, how can that be achieved when, relatively, it sits so far from our established reality?
First off, it’s important to recognise that fitness is for everyone, not an elite few or people with too much time on their hands. Regardless of physical ability, financial status and personal circumstances, accessibility is everywhere. You don’t need a fancy gym or expensive food shop to be healthy. The world can be your gym, and just moving around regularly and consistently whether walking, running or stretching from a chair is beneficial. Meanwhile, nutritionally, simple choices are often the most effective for the general population. Simple stuff, right? Well, no, at least not for everyone.
For the uninitiated, the thought of moving around any more than needed or changing dietary habits can be quite overwhelming, and understandably so. It essentially boils down to changing our behaviours, which have become habits over time. Once habits are established, they can be hard to break free from. Adopting fitness practices can seem like a big leap if you’re not used to being very active in this area. Just in the same way that staying still for too long or not taking some time out for ourselves is alien to the fitness fanatic.
Here, please note that these words aren’t meaningless motivational quick-fix tips to advise what changes you need to make to improve your general fitness. Instead, they’re a source of understanding of what fitness actually means, as well as processes we can go through whilst on the journey that is a lifestyle change.
Changing behaviours is the way to form new habits, and new habits eventually become part of our lifestyle. This process isn’t easy or quick for most, especially when we’ve become comfortable with certain ways of life for extended periods of time. When faced with change, many will experience stages including:
denial of a need to change
resistance to proposed change
relapse to past, conflicting habits
It’s okay and normal to go through these stages. No one likes drastic change. If I all of sudden started writing in another language or font style, it’d be unfamiliar and take some getting used to, comprendre?
Positive lifestyle change is absolutely achievable. Taking small, incremental steps to adjust routines and our exposure to new stimuli, rather than taking giant leaps of change, helps condition us to change with relative ease. This makes us less resistant to doing things against our status quo. The stages we tend to go through here include:
goal-setting (realistic and reachable short, medium and long-term goal/s)
action (actually doing something to reach our goal/s)
maintenance of the change over time
realising the best versions of ourselves
Of course, it can take weeks, months, years, or a lifetime of positive steps to reach our end goal/s. However, the journey to get there is the rewarding part of the process, as that’s where we’ve made the decision/s and action/s to change our habits for the betterment of ourselves and those we care about. Improving our sleep quality or patterns, social connections, mental or physical health, and fitness encapsulates all elements of our lifestyles whether we recognise that at this moment in time or not.
It’s a lot easier to be ‘fit’ when you don’t have to think about it. Once we get over the first few hurdles of behaviour change, change itself becomes easier and easier to adjust to, and our willingness to make it increases. It’s beginning the process which is the hardest hurdle to triumph over. A starting point can be seeking advice from professionals such as coaches, sports therapists and medical personnel to enhance our education of what, how and why change can/should happen. Peers, family, friends and others who may be experiencing similar desire to change their lifestyle habits will also be massively motivational when sharing challenges and successes in behaviour change.
Fitness absolutely can be a lifestyle for us all, regardless of your current conditions and perspective on what fitness is and how much it is prioritised in your life. The more we acknowledge how fitness is beyond just doing rigorous bouts of exercise, but is broadly a measure of how we look after our bodies, minds and those we care about, the more likely we are to take action and make a sustainable, positive change to benefit our long-term lifestyles.
MSE Content Creator