We often hear about how we need to exercise in order to improve our physical health. Which is completely true. Exercising can help with preventing or managing certain health conditions and diseases including things like cardiovascular health, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity, different cancers, arthritis and stroke. But like I was mentioning in my Emotional First Aid post, we are often not revealing the positivity that exercising brings to either preventing or managing our mental wellbeing.
A big unspoken part of exercising is the increased confidence, self-esteem and social interaction. When we commit to something, such as a 15 minute walk 4x a week or 6,000 steps in a day and we follow through with our plans we feel good at completing that goal (yay us!). When regularly working out, we are starting to notice changes in our bodies, clothes fit differently, body is more toned, stronger, increased endurance, and weight loss. These changes can make us feel good about ourselves, more confident in our skin. Exercise is also a great way to be around other people. Joining a gym or a group class in person or these days online can be a good way to get your social fix. Passing by people on a walk and saying hi and sharing a smile (eye smiles these days) can feel good. When we increase our self-esteem and sense of connection with others we can see reductions in anxiety, depression, stress and negative moods. It ultimately can help stabilize our moods which makes our days go smoother
Exercise increases blood circulation to the brain which in turn increases cognitive functioning and mental alertness. There are reasons behind your smart watch or your phone alerting you to stand up and have a stretch or to go for a little walk, we have got to keep our blood flowing for maximum brain (and body) optimization. Exercise has ongoing effectiveness, even when you are not in the middle of exercising.
Being sedentary all the time can ultimately be extremely damaging to our physical and mental health (no exaggeration here). You don’t have to be doing “hardcore” exercise to get all of its benefits. It is important to set realistic goals for yourself and not to overdo it. Start with a 10-15 minute walk 3-4x a week, and slowly increase the time or type of exercise. It is important to keep things simple especially in the beginning to help with getting use to a new routine. If you are someone who dances in front of the mirror a few times a week, just up your intensity and your time to give you great benefits, plus it’s so much fun. Explore trying to find the exercise that you enjoy the most and keep those going.
Exercise is also known to help improve mood, sleep, increase endurance, energy, stamina, libido and reduce tiredness and negative emotions. These are all common symptoms that can make it difficult to function during your days. Exercise can be that one intervention you are looking for to get your life moving in the direction you are wanting.
One point to also note is that exercise does cause stress. Muscle soreness and frustration are common especially when starting a new routine or jumping back into an old one. Like I have said before all emotions are important and have a place. Exercise can help combat stress as well as give it. The important thing is to think about the benefits and choose healthier stress. Within time after implementation you will be able to cope with the stressors put upon you and learn how to make the best choices for yourself.
You are generally safe to start an exercise routine without talking to your medical provide, but. It is important to check in with your primary healthcare physician before starting an exercise routine to talk about limits that you might have due to pre-existing conditions. You also might want to talk to them about what you might want to look out for when it comes to injury and plans for managing it if that happens.
Make a 4-6 week plan for yourself to start and adjust as necessary. Some exercise ideas include: Yoga, walking, dancing, golf (no cart, got to walk), gardening, running, cycling, swimming and many more. Get yourself moving!