Exercise and Physical Activity – FAQs

Posted: February 27, 2020 8:44:00 AM CST

People exercising at gymMany bodies of research have proven that regular exercise, of moderate to vigorous intensity, is beneficial for all ages of people (Sevil et al, 2018). Many of us have been taught the importance of physical activity (PA) from a young age. It reduces your risk of developing major illnesses and diseases such as cancers, heart disease, and diabetes (NHS, 2018). Exercise develops stronger bones which becomes important as you age (yes, this already applies to us college students). PA also reduces your risk of developing depression and anxiety, and if you struggle with a mood disorder, exercise can play a major role in management (NHS,2018). Although many people almost certainly know these facts, only 1 in 3 adults gets the recommended amount of physical activity each week and 28% of Americans (6+ years) are physically inactive (HHS, 2017 ).

With all of this being said, I dug into various articles in order to answer a few of the most commonly asked questions about exercise and physical activity. Hopefully, with the help of this blog, you will be encouraged to increase your levels of activity and start on the road to a healthier life!

  1. How do I find/make time to exercise regularly? (American Heart Association, 2018)
    1. If there is absolutely no time for you to exercise during the week, use the weekend to catch up and get a few solid workouts in.
    2. Don’t want to sacrifice TV time for gym time? Workout while you watch your shows…there are a variety of at-home workouts available online, and plenty of them. You’d be surprised what you can do with minimal equipment, try it out!
    3. If you don’t have time for one specific workout, break physical activity up into short sessions throughout the day. Study breaks provide the perfect opportunity to be active – a few minutes of physical activity each hour helps improve well-being by breaking sedentary practices. It can be as simple as a short walk!
    4. Make a schedule for your week, pick a slot of free time, and set that time aside to work out. For me, I enjoy working out in the morning because it fits best with my schedule. But if you aren’t a morning person, find what works for you and stick to it!
    5. Sometimes, being physically active is as simple as parking farther away and walking, taking the stairs, using an exercise ball as a chair, etc.…be creative!
  2. Why is exercise important? (Harvard Medical School, 2019)
    1. Exercise plays a crucial role in maintaining long-term health for your entire body – this means preventing and/or delaying mental disease, cardiovascular (heart) disease, diabetes, and a huge one – cancer.
    2. Stress is a given in life, and on top of that some people struggle with a type of mental disorder. Physical activity has been proven to decrease symptoms of depression, and is able to alter the brain, similar to antidepressants.  
    3. Research shows that engaging in physical activity is relaxing for the mind and body – at least 30 minutes of exercise, 3 to 5 days a week, can have a large impact on your overall well-being.
  3. How do I get in the habit of going to the gym regularly? (DeMelo, 2017)
    1. Be aware that habits start to stick after 2 weeks of consistent action, but it’ll take about 10 weeks to fully develop the habit of being physical active.
    2. Working out around the same time every day will help you stay consistent – once you’ve formed a habit, you will begin to notice when you don’t work out.
    3. Find something that motivates you and set a realistic goal – for example, “I will go to the gym three days a week.”
    4. Aim to make your goals into “do’s”, not “don’ts”. Try to swap your unhealthy habits for healthy ones, don’t just make a goal to stop a bad habit.
  4. How much physical activity should I do a week? (Harvard Medical School, 2019)
    1. At least 30 minutes of moderate-intense physical activity (which can be in 10-15-minute spurts), 3 to 5 days a week, for a total of at least 150 minutes a week.
    2. At least 2 out of the 5 days should include some sort of resistance training in order to build muscle and bone strength.
  5. What do I do if I simply do not like to exercise? (Harvard Medical School, 2019)
    1. If you would consider yourself a fairly sedentary person, start with simple movements. Some exercise is better than none at all. Here are a few ideas:
      1. Swing your arms while you walk
      2. Instead of sitting and talking with friends, walk and talk
      3. Walk tall with your chest out, shoulders back, and stomach in to engage back and core muscles
      4. Dance!
      5. Walk while you talk on the phone
    2. Find a friend to workout with. Exercising with a friend is more fun when you have someone to socialize with, and people are more likely to continue to exercise when they have someone to hold them accountable.
    3. If you like to socialize, try a few of the group fitness classes here on campus or join/form an intramural team.
  6. How do I overcome my gym anxiety? (Precor, n.d.)
    1. Sign up for Peer Health’s Rec Pals program
      1. This program is designed so that you don’t have to work out alone. You will be paired with a partner who has similar fitness goals as yourself so that you are more comfortable going to the gym.
      2. Go to the gym during its slow hours when there aren’t as many people around to reduce your chances of feeling overwhelmed. 
      3. Make a plan for what kind of exercises you want to do and carry it with you so that you feel confident and are able to achieve what you want for the day. Making a list can also help keep you accountable and focused on the goal at hand and not what is going on around you.
      4. Be confident in yourself! Keep in mind that everyone in the gym is at a different point in their fitness journey, and most importantly, they all had to start at the beginning.
  7. When I do go to the gym, I don’t know what exercises to do.
    1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If there is a machine that you are interested in using but you aren’t sure how, ask an employee for assistance.
    2. Ease yourself into the experience. Begin by walking on the treadmill and get comfortable with the atmosphere. This is also a good opportunity to scope out what the gym has to offer, notice how the people around you use the equipment, and pick out anything that might interest you.
    3. Use the internet and/or social media. Seriously, there are many accredited personal trainers that provide videos of daily workouts in order to provide tutorials and tips to people of all backgrounds.


American Heart Association. (2018, March 31). Frequently Asked Questions About Physical Activity. AHA. www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cardiac-rehab/getting-physically-active/frequently-asked-questions-about-physical-activity.

DeMelo, J. (2017, June 6). 6 Steps to Making a Healthy New Habit Stick. Fitbit Blog. blog.fitbit.com/healthy-habits/.

Harvard Medical School. (2019, August 26). Why We Should Exercise - and Why We Don't. Harvard Health Publishing. www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/why-we-should-exercise-and-why-we-dont.

NHS. (2018, June 11). Benefits of exercise. NHS Choices. NHS. www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-health-benefits/.

Precor. (n.d.). Gym Anxiety: What It Is and How to Get Over It. Precor Incorporated. www.precor.com/en-us/resources/gym-anxiety-how-get-over-it.

Sevil, J., Sanchez-Miguel, P.A., Pulido, J. J., Precedes, A. & Sanchez-Oliva, D. (2018). Motivation and physical activity: Differences between high school and university students in Spain. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 125(5), 894-907. doi: 10.1177/0031512518788743

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2017, January 26). Facts & Statistics. HHS.gov. www.hhs.gov/fitness/resource-center/facts-and-statistics/index.html.

By: Health Education

Category: General, Health Education

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