Despite being creatures of habit, forming new habits that last, is not easy. Especially when it comes to things that affect our health like exercising regularly and eating well.
There are lots of reasons for this, but the most common reason is the lack of time. Some other things that can prevent people from reaching their fitness and health goals are: being too tired after work, having a lot of temptations to “fall off the wagon”, not being motivated, and a lack of knowledge about how to exercise or eat well.
Because of these things, many people put off making a change towards healthier habits by convincing themselves that this isn’t the “right time”. They believe that somewhere down the road, they won’t be as busy or stressed, and that will be the perfect time to focus on their fitness.
But let’s be totally honest, in our busy, hectic, adult lives, things never really slow down to create those perfect conditions we fantasize about.
For years, I have been trying to convince people that there is no “perfect time” to start exercising more – that the “perfect time” is a myth.
But recently, I am starting to think that I may have been wrong.
There are 4 reasons why the current Covid-19 pandemic is possibly the best opportunity in recent human history to focus on fitness and change our health habits for the better.
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Reason #1 – Many Americans Now Have More Free Time
As of this writing, 38 US states, the District of Columbia, and a number of cities (in states without statewide orders) are under some sort of stay-at-home order.
That’s about 297 million people, or 90% of the US population that is spending a whole lot more time at home now that pretty much all of 2020 has been cancelled.
Check out this chart I made based on the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It shows how the average American spends a typical day – or at least, how they used to spend a typical day prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, since the stay-at-home orders began to go into effect across the country, the way American’s spend their time has changed quite a bit.
Many people are now spending a lot less time doing the following:
- Working – non-essential businesses are closing all over the country and unemployment rates are climbing rapidly.
- Going to school – Many K-12 schools have been cancelled, and most universities are moving classes online.
- Engaging in recreation – state and national parks are beginning to close.
- Participating in sport & club activities – games, practices, and meetings are being cancelled all over the country.
- Socializing & eating out – Most restaurants and bars are closed.
- Attending church and volunteering – groups of more than 10 are no longer allowed to meet.
These changes in the way that Americans are spending their time each day, leaves the majority of (although not all) Americans with a whole lot more free time on their hands.
This is the perfect opportunity to work aggressively towards improving a fitness or health goal.
Reason #2: There Are Fewer Temptations to Stray From Your Goals
Let’s consider a common situation from our pre-pandemic days.
Imagine that you have decided to improve your health habits and you’ve set a goal to run each afternoon after work and to eat healthier. And for a few weeks, you’re doing great!
But all of the sudden, a good friend you haven’t seen in awhile shoots you a text inviting you to happy hour after work, and you just don’t have the heart to say no.
So you go to happy hour instead of running, you have a few drinks and eat some greasy pub food. And just like that, your fitness goals go out the window. Sound familiar?
But now, during the Covid-19 pandemic, many of these temptations and distractions are not even an option. For example, many bars are closed, and you can’t dine in at restaurants. In most parts of the country, you aren’t even supposed to be going over to a friend’s house to hang out there.
A second example of how temptations are reduced by stay-at-home orders, is that it has become much harder to just hit up a grocery store every time that sweet tooth kicks in.
The Covid-19 stay-at-home orders offer a more sterile environment, or safe space, for you to practice your new habits with less distractions and temptations. When will that ever be the case again?
Set yourself up for success and take advantage of this rare opportunity to work on your fitness goals in an environment with less temptations and distractions!
Reason #3: People are Shifting Their Priorities
Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, all of the sudden, always busy, don’t-stop-til-you-drop, I’ll-sleep-when-I’m-dead, Americans have been forced to slow down. A lot.
It seems that many people have taken this time to re-evaluate what matters most in life.
It can be easy in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, to take some things for granted.
When I speak with family and friends, and read comments on social media – the two biggest priorities that I hear people refocusing on right now, are health and their loved ones.
If your health or fitness goals have been pushed to the back burner by the everyday grind – maybe it’s time to re-prioritize those.
Parents – combine your priorities for health and family. Try something fun – maybe build an obstacle course in the backyard. Added bonus – it’ll both entertain and wear out the kiddos while teaching them healthy habits from a young age!
Reason #4: Exercise Helps Us Cope With Stress & Anxiety
This is a scary and stress inducing time for everyone. So much is unknown right now, and pretty much all of it is out of our control. If you take normally busy people and coop them up at home with nothing to do but worry, they’re bound to experience a lot of anxiety.
It can be tempting to do nothing, or to engage in bad habits like drinking, smoking, or stress eating during these tough times. But these things are known to create more stress – and high levels of stress can damage our immune response, making it tougher for our bodies to fight off disease. This is the last thing we want during a pandemic.
For these reasons, it is important to deal with stress and anxiety in a constructive way that will boost your immune system and improve your body’s ability to fight off disease.
Lucky for us, exercise is a well known, natural, stress reducer!
Now is a great time to choose a fitness goal to work towards. It will give you something to focus on and serve as a much needed distraction from all the bad news on TV.
During self-isolation, use your feelings of boredom, restlessness, and desire to do something productive, as motivation to achieve your new fitness goals!
The death and disruption that this Covid-19 pandemic has caused is like nothing we have ever seen before. Yes, it is terrible and devastating, but, in these tough times, I think it is important to focus on what we can control, and how we can make the best of a bad situation.
A number of experts have said that we could be socially distancing for quite some time. While that may not be what we want to hear, the good news is that it does provide us with a perfect opportunity to work towards our fitness goals and form healthier habits.
Our current situation allows us to:
- Dedicate our newly found free time to a fitness goal.
- Form new fitness habits in an environment that has less temptation and distraction.
- Slow down and re-prioritize health and fitness.
- Deal with stress and anxiety in a way that improves our ability to fight off disease.
Let’s not just pass the time until our lives return to normal. Instead, let’s seize this unique opportunity to come out of our self-isolation better than we went in!
Start actively working towards a fitness goal now and by the time our stay-at-home orders are lifted, your new habits will be a lifestyle!
You will just need to continue to prioritize your new habits as you transition back into the post-Covid-19 world.
What is one goal or habit that you would like to tackle during Covid-19?
Which of the 4 reasons listed above resonates the most with you and why?