Exercise clearly matters. We all know the benefits on our physical health but perhaps, more importantly, movement is key for cognitive and mental well-being. The mood boost from even small bouts of movement make it one of the most powerful brain altering tools we have.
Yet, most of us struggle to prioritize it in our daily lives. I argue that it’s not for a lack of effort but that a few common obstacles get in the way. There are many barriers (sedentary culture, busyness, etc.) but today, I’m focusing on one of the most common pitfalls: having an unrealistic exercise plan. When I work with health coaching clients, many have lofty and aspirational exercise goals that they are not actually doing with any regularity. When I encourage people to shrink down the goal, many feel it wouldn’t be worthwhile to pursue the smaller, more realistic exercise plan. So, they continue to not exercise.
There are a few myths at play. One, that exercise isn’t effective unless it is intense and sustained for a long period of time (or takes place in a gym). Let me bust this myth right now. Even moving for 5 minutes has been proven to have benefits. Any movement breaks up sedentarism, which has its own benefits. And, all movement counts (read my article on that topic here).
Second, the fitness industry would have you believe that you need to buy something in order to be in shape. Whether this is a yoga studio membership, joining a CrossFit gym, or an online class series. These are all fantastic resources but the reality is that they are luxury items that aren’t necessary if you’re on a budget. I also think the gym model can lead to a lack of consistency because the barrier to getting there (both effort, money, and time) is large.
This article is going to focus on resources that can help combat these roadblocks. Most people have exercise goals that are too large, sometimes expensive, and often not very portable. In order to be consistent with movement, I’m going to share some of my favorite free, portable ways to move. Get familiar with a few of these resources and you’ll always be able to move, no matter what life throws at you. The following resources include options that are under 10 minutes, in order to limit the busyness barrier.
Here are some of my favorite resources. All free, all portable.
Try at-home bodyweight circuits for a portable way to add in strength training. As a good starting goal, aim to do 1-2 bodyweight circuits a week.
Bodyweight workouts are the best! They build strength in an accessible way and many also have a cardio aspect. Perhaps the best part is that they can be done anywhere. To begin, learn a bodyweight circuit or two and you’ll never be without a way to move your body no matter where you are. If you get bored with that routine, there are infinite to choose from and you can always learn another.
Here are my favorite resources to get you started.
Nerdfitness is a great resource for bodyweight workouts. Try their Beginner’s version here (this is the strength workout I do most often). For an added challenge, you can always use the Advanced version here.
Darebee: Darebee is an incredible, free database of HIIT and bodyweight workouts. If you choose no-equipment in the search filter you’ll find workouts that are completely bodyweight-based. Find a few workouts you enjoy and stick to those, or do one of their strength programs, which gives you a workout plan for the month. This is a good program to start with. They also have an exercise library which demonstrates each of the exercises so you can make sure you have the correct form.
High intensity interval workouts (HIIT).
The Venn diagram between HIIT and bodyweight circuits has a lot of overlap. The way I think of it is that with HIIT the emphasis is on getting your heart rate elevated in addition to any strength building component (exercise physiologist readers please feel free to amend my understanding!). I love HIIT workouts for when you want to feel the benefits of a hard workout (endorphin rush, sweat, elevated heart rate) but are time limited. In my opinion, of any form of exercise, these burst workouts seem to contribute most to elevated mood, focus, and resolving feelings of acute stress.
Tabata training: Tabata is a 4 minute workout where you do 8 sets of 20 seconds of hard effort, with 10 seconds of rest. For a simple Tabata workout you can do burpees (how to do burpees here). This app provides you with a tabata timer.
Darebee also has a great library of HIIT workouts here.
Yoga is one of my favorite forms of movement. Unfortunately, it can be prohibitively expensive in a studio setting. It’s getting better but historically, yoga studios have not always been the most welcoming places for all types of people with all types of bodies ( this is changing!). These past few years I’ve moved around a lot, so I haven’t had a yoga studio home. I’ve maintained a yoga practice solely with free, online yoga classes.
My go-to free yoga resource is Yoga with Adriene channel on Youtube. She has infinite free videos for all types of yoga practitioners and skill levels.
Yogaglo is also wonderful but isn’t technically free ( cost $18/month).
Other ideas (no app needed).
WALK: Walking is underrated. Go outside, and take a 5-30 minute walk for an instant mood boost. This is extremely portable and one of the best things to do while traveling. The daylight, fresh air and movement combination are nothing short of miraculous for a mental reset.
MINI MOVEMENT GOALS: Decide on a baseline mini movement goal for your day. Maybe it’s doing 20 squats or 10 push-ups. This minimum daily commitment makes you feel like a regular exerciser and is easy habit to add on to on days when you have more time.
Do you have any low-friction, free, accessible ways you like to keep moving? Please post below!
If you need help developing your own exercise habit, I’d love to support you as your health coach. Click here to schedule a free consultation call.