Taking Charge of the Fitness Journey: How to Find Motivation in 2024Nov 28, 2023 06:30AM ● By Cristina Parker, DPT
One of the most common New Year’s resolutions involves improving health, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. A great way to stay motivated and fulfilled in 2024 is to combine a personal goal for better health with the larger purpose of nourishing our planet and giving back to the community.
Equipment and Gear
When planning a fitness routine, consider the sustainability and carbon footprint of the equipment and gear. “There are several greener initiatives you can take, such as utilizing power-generating exercise equipment or reducing paper and packaging waste through purchasing fewer items,” advises Jamie Temple, a healthcare customer-success executive. Many companies are utilizing recycled materials for fitness equipment, such as the 100-percent recycled cork yoga mats by 42 Birds or Iron Company’s line of green fitness equipment, including barbells, medicine balls and weight storage systems made of recycled materials.
Purchase exercise clothes from brands that offer clothing made with fair trade and collection practices that include natural and recycled fabrics. Karen Thomas, a doctor of physical therapy and founder of Venture Out Wellness, in Virginia, observes, “Now more than ever in fashion, comfort is being merged with sustainable, high-performance fabrics that offer you a great opportunity to be kind to Planet Earth and your body simultaneously.”
Getting exercise outdoors may require more thought during the winter months. According to the American Heart Association, colder weather constricts the blood vessels, which can decrease blood flow and oxygen. Monitoring symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain and dizziness is important during any exercise, but heightened for those exercising outdoors in the cold.
Factors such as the weather, the temperature, lack of daylight and chaotic holiday schedules can interfere with the goal of creating a realistic, attainable outdoor workout. Hiking, walking and cycling can still be performed outside in dry conditions with the appropriate clothing, or indoors using an elliptical, treadmill or recumbent bike.
Temple cautions the need for safety when exercising outdoors in the winter, advising, “Avoid icy roads and sidewalks; stretch or walk in place to warm up first; protect your eyes and ears; and always wear non-slip shoes.” Alternatively, snow shoeing, cross country skiing and ice skating can be a fun way to take advantage of the winter and get moving while trying something new.
Another consideration when exercising in weather extremes is staying hydrated. Cold weather studies at the University of New Hampshire show an increased risk for dehydration because people don’t feel as thirsty when the weather is cold. Thomas recommends going green while hydrating by eliminating single-use water bottles in favor of a reusable, BPA-free water bottle.
TheRoundup.org, an organization dedicated to promoting environmental awareness and sustainability, reports, “Every year, 50 billion single-use water bottles are sold in the U.S., the vast majority of which either end up in landfills or add to the 5.25 trillion items of plastic waste already in our oceans.”
Virtual fitness classes offer a great way to stay active on a cold, snowy day by combining the cozy convenience of in-home exertion with the guidance of trained professionals. Online platforms, such as YouTube, stream affordable and free sessions in a wide variety of modalities, from low-intensity options like yoga to high-intensity interval training. Some large health insurance companies collaborate with fitness providers to facilitate accessibility. One example is UnitedHealthcare, which offers Apple Fitness+ subscriptions to fully insured members.
Getting involved in community initiatives is a wonderful way to seek out support and motivation, connect with likeminded individuals and build a health-conscious community. Stay active during the winter while giving back. Many organizations host activities such as volunteering at the local food bank or home meal delivery programs.
Thomas suggests establishing a fitness community to motivate each other and to find ways to reduce the group’s carbon footprint. To cut emissions, walk together or use walking as a warmup and cool down to and from a workout, take mass transit or carpool—with bonus points if the group has access to a hybrid or electric vehicle.
We don’t have to be among the 80 percent of Americans that fail to achieve their New Year’s resolution. Feel well and feel good about achieving better health in the new year.
Cristina Parker, a researcher, health content writer, educator and clinician specializing in neurologic disorders, limb-loss rehabilitation and adaptive sports techniques, holds a doctorate in physical therapy.