We’re all familiar with how to lead a healthy lifestyle: eat well, exercise regularly, get lots of sleep, be proactive around mental health. These recommendations would be broadly accepted by most of us.
But ask anyone to assess how well they have attended to those four areas this week – let alone to the many other areas which contribute to one’s whole health – and you’ll probably hear a list of excuses for why they’ve eaten poorly, skipped their workout, worked too many hours, and missed out on quality time with the family.
The theory is never the problem. It’s the doing where it gets tricky.
Cigna’s COVID-19 Global Impact Survey even shows that our motivation to exercise – one of the key stress-reducing tactics we can all deploy – is collectively waning, with many of the countries surveyed reporting a drop in people exercising towards the end of last year. For example, Americans taking time to regularly exercise dropped from 32% in October to 24% in December whilst in Thailand rates were down over the same period from 27% to 21%. Likewise in Singapore, where there was a drop of 22% to 17%.
Recruiting an exercise buddy is a sure-fire way of sticking to an exercise routine. When we take on tasks, we naturally compare our progress with our peers so if you and a friend can exercise together – or even separately but still share in the experience – you are creating an external reason not to let your exercise fall by the wayside.
Even better, exercising with someone else makes it a social event, which in turn has its own significant health benefits, reducing anxiety, improving self-esteem and, over the long term, even boosting life expectancy. In fact, it gives us a lot of the same benefits as exercise.
So connecting with others through exercise is the perfect way of doing more with your time. You are effectively doubling up on feeling good by looking after your body and mind, and also strengthening a relationship with a friend. Once in an exercise routine with another person, or within a group, it won’t be long before someone suggests taking on a challenge, such as a timed run, a weight-lifting challenge in the gym, or cycling a certain distance in a week.
Setting such challenges can help reinforce your motivation to exercise, so don’t shy away. But remember not to set the bar too high, initially. We are motivated by achievement so hitting an initial goal will make us more motivated to continue to improve and hit the next goal.
Having attempted a challenge, there’s even more of a reason to take time to socialise with your training partner(s) and congratulate – or commiserate – with each other. Either way, that’s going to make you feel good as well.
Whilst the global lockdown eases, local restrictions may prohibit you from meeting up physically to train with friends but there are plenty of ways technology can help. Activities that take place indoors, on an exercise bike or on a yoga mat for example, lend themselves perfectly to firing up a video call with a friend so you can chat away or swap tips on technique.
If your exercise is outdoors, a run, cycle or a swim perhaps, then downloading the same activity tracker is a good idea. Cigna’s Body&Mind app can also be integrated with most activity trackers providing you with a one-stop shop for monitoring your physical activity every day, and comparing progress with your friend(s).
Our Cigna Body&Mind app is available through the app store on all Apple and Android devices. Download the app today and discover how we can help you lead a healthier lifestyle.
 Emma Sappala – Social Connection Boosts Health Even When You’re Isolated.
 Positive Psychology – What is Goal Setting and How to do it Well.