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GO-GO! instead of YO-YO!

Dear Ellen, I have not exercised all winter. Now that the spring is coming I need motivation to get me going and out of my yo-yo exercise habit!


According to the World Health Organization, « Physical activity is the easiest manner to avoid practically all chronic illness". However, despite all the health benefits of physical activity, many people yo-yo in and out of bouts of exercise rather than making a plan to fit exercise into lifestyle with balance, variety and moderation. A study from the Journal of Applied Physiology has found that periods of strenuous exercise followed by weeks of physical inactivity or “yo-yo exercising” can lead to increased fat cell production. Since increased fat cell production has been shown to lead to weight gain and obesity, this is not something we want, nor is healthy. Below are some one simple changes to identify why you YO-YO and strategize to GO-GO!

Why do YOU YO-YO?

I’m too tired

One Simple Change: Give up this poor excuse since it has been found that people sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week. Outdoor breaks can help you sleep better at night since sunlight affects circadian rhythm which has a lot to do with sleep quality. It has further been discovered that exposure to bright light during the day can positively affect mood and alertness. Refer to my January One Simple Change “resolution to sleep more” for tips on sleeping better!

I have no time

One Simple Change: Repeat after me “I have no time not to!” Time and convenience are not excuses for yo-yo’ing away from the recommended 30 minutes of activity per day, especially when those minutes can be broken down into 3 x 10 minute increments. Everything counts! Consider that perhaps the problem is not that you're out of time, but that your life is so out of control that you can't prioritize your time for your health and well-being.

I am too stressed

One Simple Change: Get this! Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries. Try this 7 minute break to relax and stretch from sitting at your computer. Sitting all day can hurt your lower back, have a negative impact on circulation, strain upper back and neck and staring at the screen for long periods of time is tiring and can cause eye problems. Moreover, computer work has been associated with both insomnia and anxiety. Short breaks of relaxing and stretching have been proven to do wonders for health and well-being.

It hurts!

One Simple Change: Start small! Time a 10 minute walk once a day for one week – that’s already over one hour of activity! Following week, or when you’re ready, add a second 10 minute walk per day…increasing at your own pace. As an added benefit, studies show that sporadic breaks replenish our energy, improve self-control, decision-making and productivity. Plan to start with low to moderate intensity and gradually increase both intensity and time as the exercise routine becomes more manageable. 

I’m alone

One Simple Change: Reach out to others! Ask colleagues, friends or spouses and fix a time to keep you accountable. Here is why exercising with someone else is a good idea. You can’t find anybody available when you are? Use your iPod or phone to listen to a book, podcast, a course or your favourite music and look forward to some “you” time.

I just don’t like it!

One Simple Change: Do what you love and love what you do! The only activity you will maintain long term is one that you love…remember playing outside as a child? Ice skating? Walking on the beach? Every season has something to offer and the spring time has the advantage of drawing us outside for fresh air. To choose the style and type of activity that you enjoy while considering your personal health goals, click here.

It’s bad weather!

One Simple Change: It’s not about the weather, it’s about the clothes!

Hot: For very hot weather, cover shoulders and avoid cotton aiming for loose fitting specially designed breathable mesh fabrics or styles with vents to let in the breeze and help sweat evaporate away from skin.

Cold: When the temperature drop, it is important wear just enough layers to stay warm, but not too many, which can leave you sweat-soaked and freezing. It is recommended to avoid base layers made from cotton, which trap sweat against the skin requiring your body to work extra hard to stay warm when it needs that energy to move. Sweat-wicking under clothes, zip-up tops that cover the neck, vests that keep your core warm and leave arms free to move, windproof or fleece-lined bottoms, synthetic-fabric headbands, sweat-wicking socks, and gloves are all readily available today. Avoid down as it can soak through when you sweat, opting for fillers which are designed to repel sweat. Special insulated sports shoes can help keep your feet extra warm.

Rain: Wearing a waterproof hat, visor and eyeglasses with a brim will keep the rain out of your eyes. A lightweight, waterproof shell jacket to stay dry and wicking socks and apparel pull moisture away from the skin, which helps prevent chafing and discomfort.

In extremely bad weather: If you're smart, you'll take your workout indoors! For more ideas on indoor options, see my winter post “6 tips to move more during the shorter winter days”


To learn more about how regular activity can help curb appetite and cravings, read the next blog on one simple change to snack less at night.