We all know that exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, but when we get busy it’s so easy to stop doing it, and it goes down our list of priorities. The thing is, if we don’t exercise we feel more lethargic, lacking in energy and unmotivated, which then has an effect on everything else we do – our energy levels at work, our ability to have an active social life and our relationships. So it’s really a lifestyle choice and a mindset thing – if we prioritise exercise then the rest of our lives will benefit as a result. If we don’t then we’ll feel more and more tired and be stuck in the vicious circle of feeling tired and then trying to boost our energy levels with sugar and unhealthy foods, or deal with stress with alcohol.
Exercising produces endorphins in our brains which gives us that happy feeling, and it’s easy to get hooked on that and start exercising too much. We need to find a balance with exercise, to figure out which kinds of exercise we enjoy and make it a part of our weekly routine. You might decide to do a small amount of exercise every day, or do it for longer periods two or three times a week. If you haven’t exercised for while it’s best to try different forms of exercise or classes to see what you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it it’ll be harder to stick to, and you’ll just end up back on the couch. You don’t need to make yourself do things you don’t want to do, if you like fun then try a dance class. If you hate the gym don’t force yourself to go to the gym, do something else! If you really struggle to stick to a routine you might want to consider working with a personal trainer to make sure you reach your goals. If you find it difficult to get to classes there are so many ways to exercise using online programmes, such as yoga and HIIT workouts on Youtube. If you have mobility issue you can do seated yoga or modify your exercise to suit your ability. There is always a way to incorporate exercise into your life.
If you are off sick from work find out from your GP if there is a local Exercise on Prescription scheme in your area. You can get help towards the cost of going to classes/the gym/swimming to help you to get better.
Here are some suggestions if you’re thinking about exercising to improve your mental and physical wellbeing:
Running – running is a great way to stay physically fit but also to deal with stress. Many people find that they can cope with stress better by incorporating running into their lives. If you’re a total beginner, build it up slowly, and just do a few minutes at a time then walk for a few minutes. Soon you’ll be running 5k and running non-stop for thirty minutes! If you a goal-orientated person you can look at entering charity races like the Race for Life to keep you motivated. Then you might decide to try and run 10k, and even a half marathon or a marathon. There are many people out there that were seriously unfit then turned their health around by getting into jogging/running. I personally managed to reduce my depressive symptoms with running – I can categorically say that it works! If you don’t fancy running along rope in a family member or runs a local running club.
Swimming – many people swam as children but got out of the habit as adults. It’s so relaxing to be in the water and is great to keep you toned and fit without the intensity of running or the gym. If you’re carrying an injury, swimming might be a good alternative to running to keep your fitness levels up. If you never learned to swim, then push past your comfort zone and take lesson, whatever your age!
Yoga – Yoga is a great way to look after your mind and body. You practice asanas which are the physical yoga postures, but the real core of yoga is working with your breath and achieving balance in the mind. The postures help you to become more flexible, but the breath work and meditation involved helps you to go inside and find peace within. It’s a good idea to join a class if you’re a beginner, or you can also learn online. Find out more about yoga benefits on the Yoga page.
Exercise classes – there are so many types of classes out there, and it can be a great way to socialise too. You can do a whole range of weird and wonderful things such a disco trampolining classes, hang aerial classes, electro spin classes, whatever you can think of! Or you might just want to start with aerobics or Zumba.
Dance classes – if you find it really hard to stick to exercise because it’s not fun enough, what about dance classes? Whatever your age, you can learn jazz, tap, ballet, salsa or even burlesque! You get a sense of achievement when you learn a new routine and get sweaty and fit as you do it! It’s also a great way to make new friends!
Gym – many people join gyms and find that they struggle to stick to it, as it can get a bit repetitive. But it’s a proven way to tone up and get fit. There are lots of gyms around now that are easily affordable, offer classes and have a pool/spa so you can relax after a workout. Find out what the gym charges per month and think about how many times per month you plan to visit. Divide that number of visits by two (your gym visit aspirations might be higher than what you’ll actually do). Now, divide how much you would pay per month by that number of visits. If that number—the cost per gym visit—is larger than what the gym charges for a pay-as-you-go rate, then maybe you shouldn’t commit quite yet. But otherwise, give it a go and get support from trainers who work in the gym so you can stick to your goals.
Walking/hiking – getting out in nature is one of the best ways to recover from mental health issues. Nature helps us to reconnect with ourselves and the natural world. Having a walk outside every day is a great way to feel invigorated and blow off the cobwebs. If you suffer from SAD then walking outside and getting natural light can help to increase your energy levels and mood. Light intensity is measured in lux, to treat SAD you need a light source of at least 2,500 lux. Walking can be just as beneficial as running in terms of your health and fitness. Joining a local walking or hiking club can be a good way to meet new people and socialise. You might also discover a new found love of the outdoors!
Cycling – You don’t need to do the Tour de France to benefit from cycling! Even getting out on your bike for twenty minutes a day can make a big difference to have you feel. You’ll quickly tone your legs and it’s a chance to explore the local area and further afield. Joining a local cycling club can improve your social life and push you to try longer distances.