Staying fit has a knock-on effect on so many aspects of our general health, from keeping our hear and lungs healthy, to improving our mood and energy levels. However, it can be difficult establishing an exercise routine and sticking to it.
Benefits of Exercise
The most obvious benefit of physical exercise is that it helps us to maintain a healthy body. It can help reduce our risk of health conditions and diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, diabetes, and arthritis. However, exercise also has a huge impact on your sense of well-being. According to recent research, just 30 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week is enough for your brain to reap the benefits of exercise. This could be a 30-minute walk to work, walking the dog, or carrying home your groceries. Exercise causes your body to release the “feel-good chemicals” like serotonin and dopamine, making physical activity a great stress reducer.
Starting a new habit, like exercise, is always the hardest part. If it has been awhile since you have done regular physical activity, it may be hard work to get going. Nevertheless, once you do, your muscle strength and endurance will build up; and you will find that you have more energy each day as you progress with your fitness regime. Some tips for keeping up this new habit are:
- Start Slow: Trying to do too much at first can be discouraging and stressful. Start by taking a brisk walk, or trying a beginner’s workout class; then build from there. As it gets easier, you can increase the intensity of your workout. If you feel intimidated by exercise, or need help getting started, most gyms will let you meet with a personal trainer once to set up a workout plan within your limits.
- Find an activity you enjoy: some people enjoy running, others enjoy dancing, or even rock climbing. Doing exercise does not have to be a tedious or boring activity. If you do not enjoy the activity, chances are you won’t stick with it. Think about activities you enjoy, and make that your exercise.
- Work it into a routine: Going to the gym may not be your thing, but there are other ways to work exercise into your day. You could try walking or cycling to work instead of taking the bus; or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. This allows you to fit in exercise without dramatically changing your routine.
- Exercise with a friend: Having a friend to exercise with is one of the best ways to keep up with a new exercise routine. In addition to the socialisation, it helps to keep each other accountable and motivated. When the weather permits, joining a tag rugby team or other recreational team is a good way to keep motivated, spend time with friends, and meet new people.
If you miss a class, or skip a training session, try not to be hard on yourself. Pushing yourself too hard can result in burnout. Keeping track of your exercise and progress – by either writing it down, or using one of the many mobile exercise apps out there – helps you to stay motivated, as it can help you to see the progress you have made when you feel stuck. When you are feeling unmotivated, keep these health benefits in mind. If you do not feel like going for your normal workout or run, take a walk around the neighbourhood instead. Lastly, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine, especially if you have any health concerns.
What benefits have you noticed from exercise? Have you found that it helps you to cope with stress or anxiety? OR do you feel the thought of exercising causes you stress or anxiety? Also, to read more, check out some of the related articles below
Nicole Paulie is a Counselling Psychologist, and co-author of “How to be Happy and Healthy – The seven natural elements of mental health.” She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact us to learn more or to book an appointment.