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Essentials for workout motivation: Personalizing activities and socializing

People participate in a Zumba class dance – a Latin-inspired workout that helps burn calories while dancing. People participate in a Zumba class dance – a Latin-inspired workout that helps burn calories while dancing. Group exercises, such as the one above, can help people be motivated to work out in fun ways (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kiana Brothers)

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The benefits of physical exercise are undeniable, but for retired and separated military members who no longer must comply with physical fitness standards, finding motivation to work out can be tough. Before jumping into any workout plan, it’s important to consider why you want to work out, what your goals are and any possible challenges that may prevent you from completing them. Military Health System experts say that identifying what drives you is essential to being motivated and achieving your fitness goals.

Army Capt. Lakesha Williams, a public health nurse at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in northern Virginia, said motivation levels can be affected by priorities, life events and the length of time a person has been away from military duty.

“When you’ve decided to initiate this lifestyle change, the next step is to make an appointment with a primary care provider for a health assessment and clearance, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition,” said Williams, stressing that safety in a fitness program is first and foremost.

Those who are beginning a new workout regimen should start gradually and build momentum. Joining a gym or an exercise program can add a social element to your regimen, while alternating routines helps prevent boredom and music can be a resource for support, said Williams. The combination of all three can provide a productive environment toward your fitness goals.

Army Col. Robert Oh, chief medical officer at Martin Army Community Hospital, Fort Benning, Georgia, said having an accountability partner really increases motivation to remain committed to exercise and can replicate what a lot of people miss about their military service. Many gyms offer various types of group exercise classes, which can be a starting point for those looking to boost their energy levels.

“We’re social beings [and] exercising and doing activities with others can make it all that much easier,” said Oh, stressing that any type of physical activity can help improve health. Developing S.M.A.R.T. goals –specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound – also helps a person stay on track, he said.

Exercise, good nutrition and adequate sleep are essential for good overall health and motivation. Planning ahead can contribute in a major way to healthy aging and improved quality of life.

 “The culture is changing,” said Oh. "Quality, restorative sleep and what you eat to fuel your body makes a difference on not only your mood but your desire to work out.”

Sleep deprivation is linked to increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and high blood pressure. While the optimum amount of sleep can vary, most adults need seven to eight hours nightly. Adequate sleep is also necessary for muscle rebuilding and recovery.

“[Exercise] is not just about weight and it’s not just about fitness,” said Oh. “It’s really about health for life.”

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